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[Energy] [Column] All About Petroleum - (9) Smart Consumption

by Eco Generation | 13-08-2019 11:11 Comments 2 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations



Smart Consumption

 

 

By Science Columnist Ho-Gwan Ko

 

 

People cannot live without energy. Can we get through a cold winter without heating? No matter how much we bundle up, it would be still cold without burning something to generate heat. Even for cooking, we need energy. Since we have been eating food cooked with fire for a long time, it is hard to live on raw meat or uncooked rice. We need to at least burn wood.


The energy that can be obtained directly from nature including trees is called primary energy. In the past, people used a lot of wood, but as the industrial revolution took place, coal became the main energy source. We now use a variety of energy sources such as petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower.


According to the BP’s report in 2018, the global primary energy mix includes: 34.2% petroleum, 23.4% natural gas, and 27.6% coal. These three resources account for the majority of the energy mix at 85.2%. Nuclear power constitutes 4.4%, hydropower makes up 6.8%, and the remaining 3.6% consists of renewable energy sources including solar heat.


You might think that coal, which is hardly seen around these days, is used more than you think. Coal is generally used to make electricity. About 38% of the energy consumed for power generation in the world is occupied by coal. Coal is followed by natural gas accounting for 23%, hydropower 16%, and nuclear power 10%. Petroleum takes up a small proportion in power generation at 3.5%. Instead, it is the most used resource for transportation such as cars and airplanes.


The amount of petroleum used a day around the world reaches about 98 million barrels. By country, the United States ranks no. 1 at about 20 million barrels a day. China comes the second with about 12.8 million barrels, and then India with 4.7 million barrels. Consuming about 2.8 barrels a day, South Korean ranks 8th. A large oil tanker tens of meters in height and 300-400 meters in length can carry about 2 million barrels of petroleum. Even after getting petroleum with such a huge oil tank, these countries use up a few tankers of petroleum within a day.


Even though petroleum will not be depleted for decades, we need to reduce petroleum consumption in our daily lives. The biggest problem is environmental pollution. Carbon, the major component of petroleum, combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the culprit behind global warming. Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air cause a greenhouse effect and make the Earth warmer. Global warming does not just mean a warmer Earth. With abnormal climate events around the world, phenomena such as hotter summers and colder winters are observed. Natural disasters such as heavy rains, typhoons, and droughts can become worse.


Environmental pollution caused by petroleum chemicals such as plastics is also serious. Since plastic does not decompose well, it remains in the ground for hundreds of years. Although we separate garbage, recycling is not as easy as you think. Plastic waste dumped in the sea does not rot and floats on the sea.


In the North Pacific, there are areas where such plastics and plastic bags gather due to currents and winds. They are called garbage islands, and the total area reaches a whopping 1.55 million km2, which is three times the area of France. Some sea turtles and other sea creatures mistake plastic for food and lose their lives. Nowadays, plastic being decomposed finely and mixed in the seawater has become another concern. Invisible microplastics can be consumed by humans via the food chain in sea animals, and this can have harmful effects on ecosystems and human health.


Environmental pollution can occur when petroleum is extracted or transported as well. We sometimes see awful scenes of black petroleum spilling from oil tankers in the ocean on the news. When pipelines rupture, the whole area is contaminated as well. Some are concerned that oil sands or shale gas may also cause environmental pollution in the course of development. This is because water mixed with chemicals penetrates the ground. Some even point out that extracting shale gas causes pressure changes underground, which may lead to earthquakes.


If we want to live on this planet for a long time, we need to use petroleum wisely to reduce its impact on the environment. It is better to reduce the use of disposable products and use public transportation as much as possible. Plastic bags or plastics should not be thrown away anywhere. You may have got sick of hearing this now, but an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of theory.


 

Smart Consumption

Plastic Waste Flooded into the Sea: Copyright Vaidehi Shah

2 Comments

ALOK DHAKAL

  • ALOK DHAKAL says :
    Thank you for such a wonderful piece of writing.
    Posted 18-09-2019 00:14

Muekara Monday

  • Muekara Monday says :
    ''ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of theory'' indeed.
    We must take adequate actions at home, if must live longer on this planet.
    Thanks for the great speech.
    Posted 14-08-2019 05:20

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