Imagine A World Without Oil
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 by Jon Burras
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     Ecological utopia has been reached. Politicians and environmental activists have clambered together to begin banning oil drilling in any arena they can think of. NIMBY (not in my backyard) zealots have been sprouting up from coast to coast and everywhere in between. Oil drilling is being reduced or eliminated in the Arctic, within 3000 feet of a school, in nearby ocean waters and close to protected reserves and meadows.

    One would think that this is a good thing. Seeing another oil stained sea lion or pelican is always a great shot for a media outlet to turn the public against oil drilling. We are finally getting off oil and fossil fuels and Mother Earth will be happier (along with Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, amongst others). We have saved the planet by banning oil drilling and eliminating this horrible travesty to our planet.

     Think again. Most of what we touch in our lives each day has been created by oil. We often think about oil as that dirty liquid that is turned into gasoline and heating fuel that powers our cars and heats many homes. That is true. However, oil is the source of most of the products that we come in contact with on a daily basis.

     Every day we touch millions of products that are all derived from petroleum. This might include medications, cosmetics, clothing, shoes, hospital supplies, automobile parts, kitchen utensils and much more. You cannot escape the fact that oil plays a dramatic role in our modern world. Even if you never burned another drop of oil, your life would still be consumed with oil-based products.

     There is a scene from the movie, The Graduate, in which an older gentleman tells Dustin Hoffman's character that the secret to success is to learn Chinese and get into plastics. The United States sends oil to China. It comes back as plastic parts. Not just plastic, but oil is also made into other materials like glues, resins, and synthetic fabrics. Our modern-day world is consumed by oil-driven products. Why would you want to stop drilling for oil?

     When you enter into a hospital much of the medical instruments are made from oil. From the PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks, plastic visors, laser machines, bedding, air hoses and many more articles, a hospital could not function without its many products made from oil. In fact, the N-95 masks that became so important during the Covid-19 pandemic, are made from oil.

    It is hard to put on any article of clothing without coming in contact with something that is not made from oil. From the soles of your shoes to your inner garments, synthetic clothing is all made from oil. This includes, polyester, Spandex, acrylic, nylon and acetate. Your underwear and tummy tuckers all are created using synthetic fabrics that are derived from oil. From socks to shirts, neck ties to scarves, there is a good chance that oil was involved in its creation. In fact, some environmentally vocal companies claim that the soles of their footwear contain 90% natural products. What these companies will not tell you is that the last 10% of the product is produced with oil based glues and solvents.

     I am often amused when I witness a press conference designed to draw attention to oil drilling or global warming. Activists and politicians show up in their gasoline-powered cars or chauffeur-driven limousines. They stand at a podium that has parts of it made from oil. There is a water bottle on one side that is made from oil derived plastic and a designer paper coffee cup on the other side that is laced with a layer of film made from oil to prevent the coffee from spilling through the paper.

     The soles of their shoes as well as their under garments are made from oil. So are their sun glasses, scarves, pens, shoelaces and even the handles of their designer purses. They rally against oil drilling but they themselves are the beneficiaries of an oil economy. The cars that transported them to the event are mostly filled with oil created products like the steering wheel, fan belts and even the tires. Synthetic rubber is just another name for oil. These celebrities and politicians could not live one day without oil.

     High above you might find a Greenpeace activist on a rope and harness unfurling a giant banner that reads "Death to Oil Drilling Now!" Unbeknownst to this climate warrior is that he too is a vast consumer of oil. His fleece jacket is made from polyurethane (petroleum derived). His shoelaces, polyester synthetic fabric pants, nylon ropes, climbing harnesses, safety goggles, plastic climbing helmet, soles of his climbing shoes and even his synthetic underwear, all come from oil. While these virtue selling eco-warriors are shouting from the rooftops that we need to ban oil drilling, they themselves are some of the greatest consumers of products made from oil.

    It would appear that many have left their particular political party and have joined the new "Hypocrite Party". They say one thing but do something else. For instance, some of these activists sit down at night to play with their children. Their "Lego" play toys and other toys are made from oil. Their crayons to color with are made from oil. In fact, most of their outdoor gear, from soccer balls to "nerf" footballs, are all made from oil.

     A popular movement underway across the country is to improve the nation's "infrastructure". One of these ideas is to clean up the nation's water supply to remove all of the lead pipe that has been in the ground for decades. What is it that these crusaders wish to replace lead pipe with? None other than PVC piping. PVC (poly vinyl chloride) comes from oil.

     From the wax on fruit in the supermarket to the insulation on your home wiring, we come in contact with products made from oil several hundred times per day. The cosmetics that many women wear are often made from oil. The roads you drive on are made from oil (as in asphalt). Why are we still kidding ourselves? The steering wheel used to guide your car and the gas peddle used to propel your car forward are all made  from oil. The plastic coffee pot and the Teflon coating on your frying pan in your kitchen are all made from oil.

     In 2019 teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed in a carbon neutral (no motor) catamaran sailboat from England to America. Her vision was to draw attention to climate issues and oil drilling. What young Greta might not have realized was that her entire vessel was the beneficiary of oil. From the Dacron sails to the nylon ropes, most of the boat was created using oil. The fiberglass hull and the instrument panels could not have existed without oil and oil drilling somewhere. Even the plastic buckets used as a bathroom were made from oil.

     Billions of plastic soda bottles and water bottles are discarded each year, many of them ending up in the world's oceans and rivers. Plastic pollution is another large earthly problem. However, since multi-national beverage makers have many lobbyists working for them, we do not see a ban on oil-based plastic bottles any time soon.

     When you ban oil pipelines and oil drilling you inevitably create inflationary spikes. Less oil means that everything that is associated with oil will cost more. This includes the cost of shipping products, the cost of growing food, the cost of travel etc. and much more. Banning oil drilling and oil pipelines means punishing the poor and middle class as the cost of goods and services will continue to rise sharply.

    I am not sure what types of courses are being taught in high school these days but I am sure we need to add a few new courses. Here is a small sample of the new classes that are needed: 1) Oil Economy 101, 2) How Not to Look Like a Hypocrite in Public, and 3) Do Your Homework Before You Open Your Mouth.     

     We have entered into a fantasy land of wanting to ban things that we know very little about. Most roads are made from asphalt which comes from combining gravel with oil. Oil pipelines transport oil across the country to many people's homes so that they will not freeze to death in the winter. The shipping and trucking industry that move goods around the world in the global economy depend on oil to power their machinery. Even the farming industry is heavily dependent on oil to run its tractors and trucks to produce the nation's food supply.

    What many people do not realize is that along with oil drilling is natural gas drilling. Not only does natural gas power buses, fleet vehicles and heat homes, it is also the primary source of fertilizer in an industrialized farming system. Massive amounts of natural gas are captured from drilling and turned into nitrogen which is used to produce crops. If you ban drilling (for oil and natural gas) you are really saying that you never want to eat again.

     Another ironic observation is that we are seeing this current United States government shutting down oil and gas pipelines across the country. Oil and gas drilling is being cut back as permits are cancelled and new government regulations put in place. At the same time we see the shortage of oil across the country and the spike in gasoline prices. Americans are paying record high gas prices along with vast increases in inflation as everything that is dependent on oil is being increased as well. At the same time, the President of the Untied States (Joe Biden) is begging foreign oil producers like Saudi Arabia to drill for more oil to send to us in order to help us get ourselves out of our own self-induced mess. It seems like the left hand is not talking to the right hand when it comes to oil policy in America.

    I imagine that this situation is much like the captain of the Titanic must have felt. The day of the fateful sinking the captain cancelled any lifeboat drills for the passengers. Why would he want to allow anyone to think that his ship was not invincible. As campaign promises loom over a president of a country, why would he ever admit that he has a failed policy?   

     Don't confuse me with being an oil baron where my family made billions of dollars off dead dinosaurs and rotted leaves. (Decayed animals and vegetation from millions of years ago are the primary source of oil as it has fermented in  the ground). I would love nothing more than the entire oil and gas industry to just disappear over night.

    But I am also a practicalist. What would life look like without oil? We might also make the claims against other sources of energy in our lives. Nobody wants to live next to a lithium mine but everyone seems to agree that we need lithium to power our next generation battery needs. Why are we so oblivious to the benefits of oil while continuing to use these products?

     Nobody wants to live next to a wind farm either. Wind farms create a constant "hum" or "whish" as the blades turn in the wind. They make one crazy during certain times of the day (sunrise and sunset)  as the setting or rising sun casts repetitive shadows like a flicker that you have no control over. These wind farms are also sources of EMFs (electrical magnetic frequencies) and they kill many birds.

     Wind generating fan blades have become a world-wide eyesore as they are mostly impossible to recycle and end up in land fills or in giant stock yards. Tens of thousands of used and abandoned wind fan blades, often hundreds of feet in length, lie buried in landfills or sit idle on barren lots of land. The wind industry does a very poor job at recycling. Should we ban wind farms too?

     Those giant fan blades that are attached to generators on tall metal poles use oil derivatives to hold them all together. Whether they are carbon fiber or some form of epoxy coated plastic, glues and adhesives made from oil are what hold those pieces of the fan blades together. It takes oil to make wind energy.

     You would not want to live upstream or down stream from a hydro electric dam either. You would hear the constant roar of water going through the shoots. The fish stocks upstream would be severely diminished. Down stream watersheds might be destroyed or severely altered as the water levels from the damn are not constant.

    The manufacturing of solar panels requires tremendous amounts of energy in the form of coal and oil. Oil is used for many of the parts of these panels like in the sidings or in the insulation for the electrical wiring. Are we hearing any voices out there that we should be shutting down solar panel manufacturing for its heavy use of fossil fuels?

    Electric heating and cooking are the most inefficient means of using energy. Imagine all of the people who rely on heating oil to keep themselves warm on a freezing cold winter day. Imagine all the restaurants and businesses that require some form of oil to stay in business (lubrication, generators, etc.). If you eliminate oil you will be putting most businesses out of business.

     I am always in shock when I watch a television show demonstrating how some people choose to live "off the grid". They have their diesel powered tractors, their gas powered lawn mowers, their eyes glasses that are made from oil, their boots and other items of clothing coming from oil as well as their kitchen utensils. They paddle plastic kayaks to hunt and fish using their nylon fishing nets and their fiberglass fishing poles with their nylon string. They fire up their gas chain saws, put on their Plexiglas eye protection and then move all of their cut material to their diesel powered tractors.

     They are usually not wearing loin cloths from deer skin or a polar bear poncho. Normally what you see from these modern homesteaders is most of their wardrobe comes from synthetic fabrics that are mostly made from oil derivatives. Their off the grid lifestyle could not exist without oil. I guess off the grid one-hundred years ago was completely different than it is today.

     Once again, I am not a huge supporter of oil or the oil industry. However, I acknowledge its vital importance in our lives as we wish to live. While we might continue to consider how to best make products that are natural and do not contain oil, that goal seems like it is a long way off. In the meantime, I feel like the best thing to do it to ban politicians and activists who have no idea what they are talking about. I imagine that they still believe that the Emperor is wearing some brightly colored clothes.

     A message to all the climate activists and politicians who are listening. Your road to net-zero emissions and climate stability is paved with oil-derived asphalt roads.