Anti-petroleum people argue that petroleum is not a sustainable fuel for transportation and electricity generation, and petroleum advocates point to the fact that oil is essential to the production of plastics, pharmaceutical products, lubricants, and more, as if that is a reason to keep burning it.
The most important problem with that is: plastic and lubricants are essential to almost everything, from packaging, to electronics, and even automobiles and power plants. Most products are made with at least a little plastic, and that means that increased oil prices cause plastic to become more expensive.
Burning petroleum derived products such as gasoline, propane and diesel results in greater oil demand because you are consuming petroleum indirectly. Petroleum has to be extracted from the ground, then some of it is refined into gasoline and diesel, then that gasoline and diesel is burnt, so gas and diesel literally come directly from oil.
Even though not everything is made of plastic or oil, oil had to be involved at some point in its manufacturing or transportation.
For example: food is transported using diesel-powered trucks. Greater diesel demand drives up the cost of diesel, and that drives up the cost of food transportation because fuel is one of the greatest transportation expenses. And, finally, that drives up the cost of food, which is a serious economic problem.
Cutting back on petroleum usage also reduces the cost to drive gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles because, as I said above, reduced diesel and gas demand is reduced oil demand, and reduced oil demand makes all three of the hydrocarbon substances above cheaper.
So, when you see people driving hybrid and electric cars, they are reducing the cost of oil, because they are consuming so little gas. Even if hybrid and electric vehicles did not pay for themselves financially, they would still provide the economic benefit of reduced oil prices. When you see people driving around in empty SUVs, they are contributing to economic harm by needlessly wasting gasoline or diesel.
Governments can put a major dent in the situation (especially in the U.S) by imposing SUV taxes. Most SUV drivers drive them to work mostly empty on a daily basis. It won’t completely solve the problem, but it is a start.
Some people would rather to continue being wasteful and drill for more oil instead, but that actually causes future economic and environmental damage.
Conclusion: Burning more gasoline and diesel literally drives up the cost of everything, so the net economic benefit of reducing the consumption of these is widespread and far-reaching.
Photo Credit: Calotype46
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