The Oil Can Is Mightier Than The Sword
‘Well, the secret of success is to get up early, work late - and strike oil.'
Although we can trace the beginnings of oil itself to several million years ago, the oil industry is a comparatively recent development.
Petroleum literally means ‘rock oil’. It is the second most abundant liquid on Earth. Oil and gas also provide two-thirds of the world’s primary energy supplies. Oil and gas are also non-renewable resources and our use of them has increased so much that we have worries about how long they will last.
First coal and now petroleum (which includes oil and gas) have played an essential role in changing our society from an agricultural to an industrial one. It is almost impossible to find any synthetic item where petroleum has not had any part in the process of its manufacture.
From the moment we wake in the morning to the moment we go to sleep, oil controls our lives. Its influence
reaches far into politics, international affairs, global economics, human rights and the environmental health of our planet.
Burning crude oil itself is of limited use. To extract the maximum value from crude, it first needs to be refined into petroleum products. The best-known of these is gasoline, or petrol. However, there are many other products that can be obtained when a barrel of crude oil is refined. These include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosene, gasoil and fuel oil. Other useful products which are not fuels can also be manufactured by refining crude oil, such as lubricants and asphalt (used in paving roads). A range of sub-items like perfumes and insecticides are also ultimately derived from crude oil.
Furthermore, several of the products listed above which are derived from crude oil, such as naphtha, gasoil, LPG and ethane, can themselves be used as inputs or feedstocks in the production of petrochemicals.
There are more than 4,000 different petrochemical products, but those which are considered as basic products include ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, ammonia and methanol. The main groups of petrochemical end-products are plastics, synthetic fibres, synthetic rubbers, detergents and chemical fertilisers.
Considering the vast number of products that are derived from it, crude oil is a very versatile substance. Life as we know it today would be extremely difficult without crude oil and its by-products.
The most obvious way that oil dominates us, of course, is transportation. Oil powers 90 percent of world’s transportation needs. Biggest consumer of oil is United States of America. It has more automobiles than any other country; in fact, it has more cars and trucks than it has people.
Besides, oil provides heat in the winter for millions of homes, we depend on oil for food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and the entire bedrock of modern life. Without oil there would be no plastics, nor many of the chemical-based medicines we take for granted. Perhaps most important, we would go hungry without oil: commercial agriculture would grind to a halt without oil to run farm and food processing machinery or to make fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
We know that petroleum is drawn from deep wells and distilled into gasoline, jet fuel, and countless other products that form the lifeblood of industrial civilization and the adrenaline of military might.
A quick look at some facts on the importance of Petroleum, rightly called ‘the black gold’.
-A reduction of as little as 10 to 15 percent in supply of petroleum can cripple oil-dependent industrial economies. In the 1970s, a reduction of just 5 percent caused a price increase of more than 400 percent.
-Most farming equipment are either built in oil-powered plants or use diesel as fuel. Nearly all pesticides and many fertilisers are made from oil.
-Most plastics, used in everything from computers and mobile phones to pipelines, clothing and carpets, are made from oil-based substances.
-Manufacturing requires huge amounts of fossil fuels. The construction of a single car in the US requires, on an average, at least 20 barrels of oil.
-Most renewable energy equipment require large amounts of oil to produce.
-Metal production, particularly aluminium, cosmetics, hair dye, ink and many common painkillers all rely on oil.
-Oil allowed for the mass production of pharmaceutical drugs, and the development of health care infrastructure such as hospitals, ambulances, roads, etc.
-It is also required for nearly every consumer item, water supply pumping, sewage disposal, garbage disposal, street/park maintenance, hospitals and health systems, police, fire services and national defence.
And what about the next generation? If there is no petrol, what will the next generation do?
-Srila Prabhupada (Morning Walk, 29 April, 1973)
“Petroleum’s worth as a portable, dense energy source powering the vast majority of vehicles and as the base of many industrial chemicals makes it one of the world’s most important commodities. Access to it was a major factor in several military conflicts in last one hundred years.”