Must Petroleum Die to Save the Planet: Rethinking Climate Dogma

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Rejecting dogmas about petroleum and climate change
by Peter Ewart - 250News

April 15, 2016
The petroleum industry is not a dying industry. Unfortunately, this dogma is often repeated these days, and it is not much different from the dogma that “there is no such thing as human-caused climate change”.
Rather it is an industry that is undergoing fundamental change on the world scale. And what is that change? It is in the early stages of shifting from an industry that is largely reliant on producing combustible fuels (gasoline, diesel, etc.) to an industry that focuses on producing a blizzard of other petroleum-based non-fuel products.
As it stands, we are already surrounded in our homes, workplaces and communities by a huge amount of non-fuel products that are derived from petroleum, including, as other commentators have noted, many of the components of the computer I am currently using to write this article.

Here is just a very small sampling of non-fuel petroleum-derived products around an average house:
Ink, upholstery, cassettes, CDs, vitamin capsules, dentures and denture adhesives, clothes, combs, toothbrushes, dishwasher parts, floor wax, toilet seats, antihistamines, cortisone, food preservatives, ballpoint pens, nail polish, Vaseline, antiseptics, deodorants, rugs, fertilizers, fishing rods, trash bags, golf bags, candles, faucet washers, water pipes, aspirin, dishes, insecticides, perfumes, soaps, shoes, hair coloring, lipstick, house paint, shower curtains, eyeglasses, detergents, telephones, cameras, bandages, hair curlers, and so on and so forth.
This not to mention that our streets are paved with asphalt and our vehicles (including, as another commentator has noted, electrical vehicles) crammed with petroleum-based products from paints to plastics to lubricants to windshield washer fluid.
Our diverse industries and workplaces are absolutely dependent on a huge variety of petroleum-based products without which they would come to a grinding halt. Indeed, it would take many pages of a book (which also uses petroleum-based products in the printing) to list them all.

It is estimated that there are around 6,000 petroleum-based products being produced in the world today, many of which are essential to our daily lives, our communities and our economy. Even these 6,000 products can be further sub-divided into thousands more products. Now, it is true that some of these products also pose serious problems in themselves such as non-degradable plastics, and so on. But, using technology and science, many of these problems can also be overcome. Other products that remain problems can be discontinued along with combustion fuels.
The point is that, in Canada and on a world scale, we are wasting a large amount of this precious petroleum resource for fuels of various kinds that are destabilizing our planetary climate through carbon emissions. Furthermore, we are missing the opportunity to develop industrial strategies that focus on developing the value-added infrastructure to process and manufacture at least some of these 6,000+ non-fuel products, thus creating jobs and advancing the breadth and depth of our economy.
Should we simply go on “ripping and shipping” the petroleum resource and sending it off to other countries for manufacturing – the agenda of Big Oil?
Should we simply give up and let the resource stay in the ground?
Or should we seize the opportunity to develop the processing and manufacturing of at least some of the 6000+ non-fuel petroleum products and thus strengthen our economy and build our nation, as we go into a future in which fuel combustion will decline dramatically in the context of national and international action on climate change?
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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