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Petroleum/Oil - The Blood of Modern Man

September 27, 2021

Mankind consumes more than 98 million barrels of oil per day. That's more than 181,000 liters per second! Or the equivalent amount of water flowing from Storforsen falls in Sweden, one of the most voluminous rapids in Europe.

The vast majority of it (about 85%) is combusted primarily for transportation, followed by other uses of energy for electricity, heating, and industry. Only an estimated 15% is not combusted and used to produce plastics, solvents, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and many other petrochemicals. Since the 1950’s oil has become man’s economic fuel for travel, trade, growth, and productivity.

With nearly 85 million barrels of oil being burned every day, it has a mind-boggling carbon footprint. Most of that is carbon dioxide, along with many other combustion by-products having profound effects on the health of ecosystems worldwide. The inefficiency of the combustion process itself also releases huge amounts of heat directly into the surrounding area, further contributing to global warming.

Petroleum/oil is actually a mixture of hydrocarbons and surprisingly contains more atoms of hydrogen than carbon… about 71% more. This counterintuitive fact is related to the mass of hydrogen being 12 times less than that of carbon. When combusted, that hydrogen primarily forms H2O molecules or water vapor… at nearly the same number as carbon dioxide molecules! This additional surprise is because each water molecule requires two hydrogen atoms but the carbon dioxide molecule contains just one carbon atom.

Another less-known fact is that water vapor is actually a more powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) than carbon dioxide or methane and has a greater contribution to the total greenhouse effect than carbon does. The complex nature of water in the atmosphere and terrestrial environment is not well understood as it can exist in vapor, liquid, or solid states and is very mobile and transitory.

Many are aware of the rising rate of carbon (as carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere and its impact on climate and life on earth. However, the increase of hydrogen (as moisture) from petroleum/oil combustion is an equally important concern. Along with trapping heat in the atmosphere, it is becoming more evident from the massive flooding in some areas, severe droughts in others, and increased humidity in historically dry areas.

The blood which circulates in a healthy organism sustains its life and maintains homeostasis. Similarly, man has made petroleum/oil the vital liquid of his economy sustaining his desire for progress and productivity. However, that organism is bleeding and spilling out into every aspect of his environment as crude, combusted, or processed petrochemicals.

Modern man has been pumping unprecedented amounts of oil out of the earth to make it a better place for him, but its not circulating (on short time scales). Consequently, the health of the living world is deteriorating at a rate which most forms of life cannot adapt to quickly enough.

Some say "we need to change... but we can't do it all tomorrow". The truth is, we can't do anything tomorrow... we can only do something today.

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