Oil is the blood of modern civilization. For more than a century, technologies have been built around what this fossil fuel can provide. It has helped us become a thriving and developed world where lifestyles are better and safer than ever before.
These benefits have not come without a cost. Oil energy is one of the most pollution-rich types of energy consumption that modern technology offers. This has released emissions into the atmosphere that have prompted several calls to reduce or eliminate them because of the potential warming effect they may cause.
There are several pros and cons of oil energy that must be considered carefully so we can maintain its positive effects while reducing the negative effects. Here are the key points to look at.
What Are the Pros of Oil Energy?
1. Oil energy is the foundation of renewable energy.
Solar and wind products are created because of oil energy technologies. Although there is a fossil fuel investment into these energy resources, solar and wind reduce the overall consumption effect on emissions because the fuel isn’t being constantly burned to produce energy. Most renewable energy products created by oil energy become carbon-neutral in 5 years or less.
2. Oil energy is cheap.
Because there is more than a century of innovation behind this technology, we can produce cheap energy through the consumption of oil. Our infrastructures are based on this technology as well, which means we can transport oil over long distances to provide modern energy needs to extremely rural and isolated areas. That means almost everyone can benefit from this technology.
3. It offers a high-density energy.
Although we consume millions of barrels of oil daily, it is a remarkably high-density energy product. That means a small amount of oil can product a large amount of energy. That is why it is the fuel behind industrial centers and our transportation needs.
4. It is reliable.
Reliability for oil energy comes through availability and consumption. When oil is processed, refined, or used, there is a predictable outcome that occurs. We know what oil can do and it provides that result consistently. Its availability has been predictable for the last century as well with natural reserves that exist. Pricing has been variable, but because of artificial limitations on supply and demand.
5. Oil energy provides jobs.
In 2017, the US Energy and Employment report found that traditional energy and energy-efficiency sectors in the United States provide about 6.4 million jobs. That was an increase of almost 5% from the year before, netting a total of 300,000 new jobs. About 14% of the total job creation that occurred in the US from 2016-2017 occurred in oil energy.
6. It encourages economies to continue growing.
The oil energy helps to create plastics. It helps farmers run their equipment to plant and harvest crops. Up to 10% of crude oil is refined into raw materials that are used for the chemical industry. Dues, shampoos, and even shaving cream is produced through oil energy. Even bandages are created through oil energy. By making it available and affordable, we can keep economies growing because millions of jobs are indirectly linked to this industry.
7. Oil energy is a commodity.
Because oil energy is a commodity, it can become an investment vehicle. Retirement programs, private investors, and other savings resources can invest into oil energy and build wealth for others. It isn’t just the companies and governments that can profit from oil energy, but there must be enough money available to make an investment for individuals to get involved.
What Are the Cons of Oil Energy?
1. By definition, oil energy is a finite resource.
There are vast fields of oil to harvest. Tar sands and shale can provide oil as well. Because it is a fossil fuel, however, oil is a finite resource. There is the possibility that we may run out of it one day or be forced to ration how we use it. Because there is more than a century involved in the development of this technology and its infrastructure, now must be the time we begin to explore alternatives so that our current society can be maintained.
2. Oil energy is a vast pollution resource.
Incidents of oil pollution are numerous. According to reporting by Business Insider, more than 9 million gallons of crude oil have spilled from transportation pipelines in the US since 2010. There have been more than 1,300 crude oil spills in the US alone. That means oil leaks occur about once every other day. When oil hits the environment, it can pollute water resources, crop lands, and the environment in other ways. That is in addition to the emissions that oil energy creates when it is consumed.
3. It can cause health hazards when consumed at high levels.
Combustion is the most common form of consumption for oil energy. To create that combustion, we use plants, engines, and other technologies that will ignite the oil or refined oil product so that we can obtain the energy we need. A side-effect of that combustion process is the creation of carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, both of which have an ill-effect on human health. In a high enough dose, these two substances can even be life-threatening.
4. Oil creates power and power can corrupt societies.
Nations that are fueled by the profits of oil resources have banked trillions of dollars in wealth over the years. That wealth creates socioeconomic groups that can be classified into two generic categories: the “haves” and the “have nots.” The former looks to keep the profits because that means they keep the power. The latter looks to take the profits and power away from the other group. This struggle can promote violence, fuel terrorism, and has historically put nations at the brink of war.
5. It is a dangerous employment opportunity.
Although the number of oil energy jobs has risen, these jobs aren’t necessarily safe employment opportunities. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that oil and gas industry workers make up about 1% of the total workers in the United States. About 3% of on-the-job fatalities occurred within the oil and gas industry. In 2014, 4,679 people were killed while working in the US and 142 of them were working in oil energy. That means a worker here is 3 times more likely to die on the job than in other employment fields. Since 2003,
The pros and cons of oil energy show us that it has been a beneficial technology for us over the past few generations. Now may be the time, however, to begin exploring alternatives to this energy resource. We have a responsibility to maintain our planet and keep it viable for future generations and the negative aspects of oil energy show that continuing along the same path may put that future at risk.