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Petroleum Vs Renewable Energy Alternatives

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Introduction

Petroleum has been a mainstay of the United State's economy for almost a century. However, oil has now been recognized as a strong catalyst for global warming, it is becoming scarce and therefore, an expensive necessity to America's economy. In the recent years many universities and scientists have looked for alternatives to oil in the form of renewable energies. These renewable energy sources would be cheaper in the long run, more efficient and environmentally clean. America as a whole must look into these new forms of renewable energy to determine if they are a practical alternative to the use of petroleum as an energy source. If we do not try to find a clean and efficient alternative to fossil fuels, I am concerned for the future of our world.

Background Information

Petroleum oil (a type of fossil fuel) has been extracted since the early 1650's in Europe to make kerosene for use in heat and lighting. Not until 1858 in Ontario was oil discovered by James Miller Williams to be useful as an energy source for machinery. Drilling his first well in 1860, North America's first oil corporation, The Canada Oil Company, was formed [1]. Petroleum has been, for over a century, the world's primary source of energy for all manners of living. It is used in various ways such as fuel for energy, the making of plastics and the production of lubricating oils. The petroleum industry is one of, if not the largest industry in the world, and plays a strong part in modern politics. However, it seems that we are on the path to an impending oil crisis. Critics predict that by 2020 we will have insufficient oil for the growing population and by 2050 we will have a worldwide crisis, as shown in the graph below:

Figure 1 [2]

"Oil Peak" - Shows the projected amounts of oil that the world will have available to it through the year 2050.

If this information comes true and there is an insufficient amount of oil in the near future, it would lead to chaos. There would be no fuel to run our vehicles or industry. This means that all forms of transportation, delivery and supply reliant upon fossil fuels would begin to shut down. All countries depend on imports from other countries to survive; this is what forms our worldwide economy. Since we will be unable to transport goods from one place to another everything from medical supplies to food will become scarce. This must be avoided, but we must first recognize how much we as a country rely on imported petroleum.

America's Dependency Issue

We will first look at the United State's roles in the world oil chain in order to more fully understand what the stakes are in this war of dependency. America holds 2% of the world's oil reserves, contributes 8% to the production of oil and consumes a staggering 33% of the total world consumption [3]. This is an amazing amount for just one country alone to consume. If we look at how economics are supposed to work we will find that supply needs to equal demand. Our supply does equal our demand currently, but is largely imported. Right now America is only supplying 8% of the global production, while taking a massive third of the total consumption. Our supply comes almost completely from overseas, meaning that major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia or Iraq, control a major role in our economy. This is a major weakness to the US as we will have little control over this precious resource and we are at the hands and will of the suppliers. Below is a chart showing the breakdown of America's uses of oil by sector.

Figure 2 [2]

"US Oil Demand by Sector" - Shows the breakup in uses of imported petroleum.

What is very apparent in the chart above is that majority of our oil use is focused on transportation. Almost every method of transportation we use, from cars to airplanes, requires refined petroleum products to run. Without oil, as described in the background section above, the US would shut down. In order to avoid this, America has taken it upon itself to not so much find alternatives as to acquire more oil. This is most apparent in the recent political and military actions our country has taken in order to procure oil from unstable Middle Eastern countries,

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