Sunday, May 23, 2010

The invisible oil spill

I am a geoscientist and the Earth is not only my home, but also my passion and my profession. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico saddens and troubles me deeply. Much has been talked, published and blogged about it, so I will not discuss it here. Instead, I would like to talk about the "invisible oil spill", which is happening every day, ever since oil was discovered. This is the oil that you and I consume daily, and in every way it is the fundamental reason we have an oil spill in the Gulf today.  Bare with me through this simple calculation.

I drive to work about 20 days every month (some days I bike to work), which makes about 240 days/year. My car gets about 25mi/gal. If, on average, one barrel of crude yields 19.5 gallons of gasoline, and if my math is correct, in 16.25 days my car consumes one barrel of crude just by driving to work, and every year I use 14.8 bbl of oil, just to drive to work.  Another way to look at this - I "spill" about 15 gallons every year just by driving my car to work - an invisible spill, but one that is real.

The US oil consumption is estimated at about 19 million barrels/day, so WE collectively "spill" millions of barrels every day.  This is a complex issue; petroleum (and coal) fuel the world's economy, and through that, contributed to the progress of the human civilization as we know it.  We humans, collectively, have the responsibility to find a sustainable path that will take the civilization forward and be sensitive to the planet in the same time.  The blame game is never very effective.  One cannot point fingers and roll up the sleeves in the same time.

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