Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My inspiration for this blog

These days people often talk about two problems associated with our use of crude oil: global warming and peak oil. This blog seeks to draw attention to one rarely-mentioned consequence of peak oil: the inability to manufacture many of the products we use in our daily lives once the oil runs out.

As an industrial chemist I have often thought that it is almost criminal the way we burn oil in our cars, trucks, planes and power stations. It's an amazing raw material - a precious resource that enables us to readily make both the polymers that make up almost all plastics and the incredibly useful molecules that we collectively describe as 'synthetics'. If it's 'man-made' it's highly likely that the 'man' (or woman) 'made' it in whole or in part from oil.

A new impetus came when I read in Without Hot Air that in the UK 14% of the oil they import or extract is used in manufacturing, rather than as fuel. I have never thought of the UK as a major manufacturer on the world stage, and my mind boggles to think of what proportion of crude oil globally goes into non-fuel applications. And what proportion in China, where so much is manufactured these days and where so few people use any form of oil-fueled transport. Does anyone know? I'd be very interested to find out.

Of course, I think our lives would be a lot happier and a lot less fraught if we did without much of this oil-based stuff. Especially as so much of it is built with obsolescence in mind. But some of the things we make from oil are things I'd definitely rather not live without, and it is partly to preserve access to them that I try to limit my fuel oil consumption. This blog aims to draw attention to some of those manufactured products which I believe oil is truly for.

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