Recently I have been interested in the economics and history of petroleum along with it’s impact on sustainability. This urged me to do some research into the field and write this blog post about it.
Petroleum extraction began in China, during around 347AD. At this time it was commercially used to produce salt from brine, as well as in lighting and heating. Petroleum didn’t gain it’s modern practicality until the 1900’s when many refinements were discovered, these include: lamp oil (kerosene) and lubricant. This combined with the mechanical boom of the time to create a massive market for petroleum. In time, petroleum also became a key component of power production and transportation. Because of this necessary implementation into our lives and the massive economy created around petroleum, it’s supply has the potential to cause many problems.
In 1970 there was an energy crisis in which the economies of all the major industrial countries were heavily damaged by shortages in petroleum. The problem was only ‘fixed’ with the increase of the petroleum supply. Despite the economic boom this created in oil producing territory, it created heavy fluctuations in the world and national economies. This is a very poor economic system. Petroleum’s necessity negatively impacts our economy; the best fix to this is to simply cut our dependence on it.
As you can see, the technology associated with petroleum becomes obsolete over time. Over the years, as our technological capabilities have advanced, many sustainable methods to accomplish all the tasks we depended on petroleum for have been created. The problem with implementing this technology is the isolation of the economy created by small-scale economic booms from petroleum. People who are experiencing these booms want to keep them going. However, this will lead to another massive depression because of shortages in supply. Ideally, sustainable petroleum alternatives could be implemented now, so that the economy could ease and level off.