Millions of years ago, the Sahara desert was a lush rain forest. The trees absorbed billions of tons of carbon dioxide through their leaves. These leaves would fall to the ground, decompose, and feed energy back into the rainforest canopy. Much of the captured carbon dioxide, however, settled into the earth and lied dormant as carbon deposits. This process repeated itself over millions and millions of years. Obviously, the Saharan rainforest is now long gone, but what remains are the pools of carbon we all know as oil.
Fast forward to the 18th Century, and the ascension of the modern day oil lamp. Initially these lamps were powered primarily by whale oil. This would change, however, by the mid-1850’s. Drilling for petroleum oil was gaining momentum, and it was much cheaper than whale oil. Soon thereafter, petroleum oil became the dominant fuel used to light the world. In 1870, John D. Rockefeller established Standard Oil, which would become the world’s largest oil refinement company. Early on, crude oil was pumped from the ground, and refined into petroleum oil. The refining byproduct was gasoline, and it was discarded into large open pits next to the factories. At the turn of the 20thCentury, Henry Ford created the Model T. Ford’s original intent was to power the engine with alcohol, but Rockefeller and his trusted confidant Thomas Edison convinced Ford that gasoline was the way to go. Shortly thereafter, the 18thAmendment (Prohibition) put a stop to the alcohol powered vehicle for good. Ford switched gears, campaigned for consumers to buy this “waste”, and use it to power his line of automobiles. Now, instead of waste, this gasoline byproduct became a commodity, and the modern automobile era began.
All seemed to be rather serendipitous. Energy could be extracted from the ground, refined into two primary usable sources (crude and gas), engines would hum, and waste would be a thing of the past. We had a full circle, right? Wrong! What our energy pioneers ignored, was the simple rule of physics, which dictates that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it is simply transferred. So, when we extracted the oil, refined it, and “burnt” it through our internal combustible engines, the smoke which was released contained carbon monoxide. In small amounts this proves to be innocuous enough, but on a large scale this can be catastrophic. It took Mother Nature more than a billion years to collect that carbon, turn it from a gas into a liquid (or rock in the case of coal), and bury it beneath the earth’s surface. Now, we are digging up that carbon and releasing it back into the earth’s atmosphere much faster than it can be processed. Think about it. It took more than a billion years for our earth to create these carbon reserves, and we will have burnt most of them in 200 years- releasing the carbon back into the environment. Our ecosystem relies on balance, and this unnatural act is clearly affecting nature’s balance.
Some pundits argue that global warming is merely a coincidence, and that may be true. Every 10,000 years or so our earth oscillates between ice ages. So climate change is definitely a natural occurring phenomenon. But, how do these experts explain holes in our ozone layer, accelerated melting ice caps, acid rain, worsening air pollution in populated areas, and other natural abnormalities? How is all of this a coincidence, when we know energy is simply transferred, and we are releasing more energy into our atmosphere than our world has seen since Trilobites wandered the earth? To continue at this pace is irresponsible and extremely dangerous to our long term survival. We must take measures now to reduce these carbon emissions. As I’ve said, I have some ideas… Stay tuned.