Oil Dependency

For the last 40 years the UK has used over 70 million tonnes of oil every year, much of this in the manufacture of petrol ("gasoline") and diesel fuels. Forecasts suggest that, at the current rate of use, oil will begin to run out globally some time in the middle of this century. It is clearly vital that alternatives are developed sooner rather than later.

As reserves become limited to a smaller number of countries, it will become more important for other countries to find alternative sources of energy and feedstock, and oil may well become less important as a resource. After all, as has been observed, the Stone Age did not end because of a shortage of stones…
Graph: Location of oil reserves
Photo: Solar-powered oil platform

Combustion of hydrocarbons should produce carbon dioxide and water. The use of petrol and diesel leads to several other emissions as well:

Carbon dioxide The use of fossil fuels means an increase in the total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Carbon monoxide Produced by incomplete combustion of fuel; toxic when concentrated, and can affect breathing
Nitrogen oxides Nitrogen reacts with oxygen under the conditions in the engine; nitrogen dioxide (NO2) causes breathing problems, particularly in people prone to asthma
Sulphur dioxide Sulphur is present in oil, some remains after refining and reacts with oxygen in the engine; strongly acidic gas, can result in "acid rain"
Volatile organic compounds Fuel spills, losses during refuelling and other activities release fuel vapour into the air - this includes benzene, a carcinogen
Particulates Very fine solid particles, small enough to enter the small air spaces in the lungs, are produced, particularly by diesel engines
Diagram: A 1km journey produces 200g carbon dioxide

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