Reducing Oil Dependency More Difficult than Commonly Thought
Since petroleum replaced whale oil as a main fuel source more than a century ago, chemical companies and refineries have found a startling range of uses for it, from asphalt to vanilla flavouring in ice cream to pills from the drugstore. It has oozed into everyday life, so reducing dependency is a more complicated proposition than some might think, says the New York Times.
Take a typical barrel of oil.
About 46 per cent of it is refined into gasoline, and another 40 per cent or so is turned into jet and fuel oil.
Only about 2 per cent becomes petrochemicals like polyethylene and benzene for everyday products (with the rest going to other uses).
Yet that 2 per cent has a pervasive reach. "Oil, no pun intended, seeps into just about everything in the economy," says David Garfield, a managing director at the consultancy AlixPartners.
When oil prices go up, companies reassess how they transport items, try to cut down on energy costs and look for alternatives to petroleum-based materials.
For example, some are replacing the hard-to-open plastic clamshell packaging that many consumers find so annoying.
But, says Michael Pishko, head of the department of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University, there are only a few alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals (one is natural gas as a base for polyethylene). "Beyond that, it becomes very difficult to compete with petroleum, even petroleum at $100 a barrel," Dr. Pishko says.
Source: Stephanie Clifford, Oil Oozed through Your Life, New York Times, June 25, 2011.
For text: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/sunday-review/26clifford.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
For more on Environment Issues: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=31
First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 05 July 2011
FMF Policy Bulletin
Publish date: 14 July 2011
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.