U.S. has rich history with oil

Local geologist Len Eisenberg lectured about the oil industry last week at SOU. Photo courtesy of prisonplanet.com

Local geologist Len Eisenberg lectured about the oil industry last week at SOU. Photo courtesy of prisonplanet.com

Local Ashland geologist, Len Eisenberg, presented a lecture last week on the role oil and natural gas plays in modern society and possible alternatives to its use.

Eisenberg began with a description of how oil and natural gas forms and the petroleum industry’s history.

“We have a long way to go before we’ll be able to change the game,” Eisenberg said, adding that the United States, which comprises 5% of the total world population, leads the world in oil consumption with its use of 84 million barrels of oil a day.

“One barrel is 42 gallons,” Eisenberg said. “This means we consume three and a half billion gallons every single day.”

Eisenberg explained that these figures should not be shocking, since the United States also produces 25 percent of the world’s total resources. He also laid to rest the claim that oil is not a renewable resource, citing the fact that the surface oil alone that seeps up from underground deposits accounts for 90 percent of the world’s oil.

Several other countries are seeing the potential to rival the United States in oil production. Brazil recently made discoveries worth billions of dollars, and the reserves in Canada’s Tar Sands currently produce two million barrels per day.

Global warming trends also make the prospect of drilling in Alaska and Greenland more feasible.

The topic of the lecture, “Oil and Natural Gas in Nature and Society,” dealt primarily with what these trends mean for the future as environmentally-conscious societies seek to wean themselves off dependency on oil and on the pros and cons of various alternatives that have been proposed.

In the lecture, Eisenberg outlined how the United States uses oil, noting that transportation accounts for 50 percent of its use, followed by heating and electricity. He remarked that our inefficient use of oil, which the world energy scene as a whole shares, was not characteristic of oil use in the early years of the petroleum industry. Oil, which was not extracted for gas use until almost 50 years after refineries first began drilling in the mid-1800s, was originally invested in the making of lubricants and artificial asphalt.

A number of alternative energy sources are available, Eisenberg said. Coal is the most secure source, and abundant reserves of liquid coal make this option attractive.

Other alternatives include wind power, nuclear fusion and biofuels. Eisenberg favored photovoltaic energy, whose proven technology requires no infrastructure changes and is maintainable by individuals at very low costs.

Near the end of the lecture, Eisenberg compared the industrialized world’s oil addiction to chocolate cravings.

“If something is cheap, abundant, energy-dense and versatile, you have a recipe for addiction.”


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