What we can learn from the oil spill in California and the petrol shortage in the UK.

by | Oct 7, 2021 | Golf Balls

Oil was washed up on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from an offshore oil … [+] Platform on October 3, 2021 in California.

Getty Images

In the US and UK, the oil and gas industry made headlines again. There is evidence here that relates to the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies.

Gasoline shortage in the UK.

The UK’s petrol shortage last week was due to a shortage of truck drivers. Trucks are heavy goods vehicles in the UK. Truck drivers were understaffed because of the Covid pandemic.

When gas stations put up signs saying they had no gasoline (gasoline in the UK) the news spread quickly and a mini-panic resulted in long lines waiting for fuel and frustration and even fear that people would not could get there, work grew.

The UK government brought in the military to add drivers for the gasoline delivery trucks and solved the problem.

This reminds us of how much we depend on reliable and inexpensive energy. If the world suddenly stopped oil and gas production, the people would starve to death. A thoughtful Canadian blogger said this two years ago and it is still appropriate:

“What I don’t hear is the realization that we currently have a transportation (and therefore food supply) system that is completely dependent on fossil fuels and will be for the next 20+ years. We just don’t have generally available options for transport vehicles, container ships, cube, or aircraft that are fossil-fuel-free. If we were to “leave fossil fuels in the ground”, our food supplies would run out quickly and people would starve to death …

In addition, while climate change is a major priority, it is not the only priority for world governments. Climate change has the potential to kill millions in the future, but energy poverty is killing millions today. We live in a world where 1.1 billion people live in energy poverty and 4.3 million people die each year from avoidable indoor air pollution that results directly from this energy poverty. Governments in developing countries will prioritize the health of people today over tomorrow. “

In summary, we need to switch to renewable energies, but trying too quickly can endanger parts of our civilization. As Daniel Yergin said, it will take decades to transform an oil and gas industry valued at $ 87 trillion.

California oil spill.

On Saturday morning, October 2, a burst pipeline apparently released 126,000 gallons, or 3,000 barrels of crude oil, stretching from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach, California. An air show has been canceled and beaches have been closed for swimming.

Located on the ocean floor, a section of the pipeline about a mile long may have been hooked by an unsafe anchor on a cargo ship and stretched like a bowstring that, according to federal investigators, caused a partial tear.

Only about 5,000 gallons (4%) of oil had been extracted as of Tuesday morning. Beaches, swamps, and wetlands require a thorough oil cleanup, which can take months.

This is not a new thing. Since 1969, there have been 44 oil spills that released more than 400,000 gallons on U.S. beaches. Worst of all, BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost BP $ 56 billion.

It is known that extracting crude oil from layers up to 10,000 feet deep is a high risk because the oil is hot and under tremendous pressure. But accidents happen again and again and are just another reason why the world needs to switch to renewable energies as soon as possible.

Renewable energies can also have environmental problems.

Mining accidents happen – in Australia in 2020, a mining giant, Rio Tinto, blew up and destroyed a 46,000-year-old sacred cave rich in Aboriginal artifacts.

The depletion of lithium, which is used in countless batteries for electric vehicles, households, and power grids, must be carefully monitored for harmful environmental impacts.

A new source of metals used to make batteries, including laptops and phones, has been discovered – nickel, cobalt, manganese, and other rare earth elements. At three miles under the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Mexico, lies a strip of seabed called CCZ, which contains briquette-sized black nuggets called polymetallic nodules. One mining CEO calls them “a battery in a rock” and says they could be sucked up like golf balls on a putting green.

But behind this backdrop hides a sharp environmental debate. First, there is the carbon footprint of any mining activity, which must be a huge challenge to extract the tubers.

Second, although the CCZ is very low in the food chain, it has a complex life and begs the question of what happens when that life is destroyed. A biodiversity issue arises because the ocean is all interconnected and activities on the ocean floor in one place can affect the environment in distant places.

Existing open pit mines seem capable of supplying the minerals the world needs now, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies most of the world’s cobalt, which is uncertain for the future to say the least. A reserve resource on the ocean floor would make a world that turns green with batteries more secure.

An eye-opening data point for fossil fuel production: Global production must fall immediately to have a chance (50%) of keeping the temperature rise below the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement.

This emerges from the results of a new study in Nature. Of all five world regions analyzed, only the USA shows an increase in oil production up to 2025.