Oil is Not a Renewable Energy Source and It is Not as Abundant as Water


Original article (in Croatian) was published on 13/6/2024; Author: Ivan Nekić

A video falsely claiming that oil is an inexhaustible resource on Earth is spreading on social networks.

A video was published on the Facebook profile of a private user (the post is archived here, and the video here) showing oil fields in the desert, more precisely oil coming out of the ground with the following description:

“One day we will all learn that oil is not made from dinosaur fossils. It is naturally produced from the earth, like the blood in our bodies. It is a renewable resource that can never run out. Elites use scarcity tactics to promote them as ‘fossil’ fuels because the fact that they are supposedly fossil fuels means they will run out, thus keeping prices high.

In fact, there is almost as much underground oil as there is water on Earth”.

The video was originally published on TikTok back in 2021 with a description in Arabic. The video was posted on Facebook on June 7, and has received 67 shares, 7 comments and 59 other reactions. Faktograf dealt with a similar claim that oil reserves are infinite in the article from May of this year.

Oil is Being Consumed Much Faster Than It Can Be Naturally Produced

Experts point out that such claims are wrong. Crude oil is not a renewable energy source and takes millions of years to form. Although crude oil resources are thought to be abundant, people consume oil much faster than it can be naturally produced, and current technological and financial constraints prevent people from exploiting all potential oil resources.

“Oil is not a renewable resource”, Marianne Kah, a senior scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy, told the Associated Press. The scientist explains that oil supplies are limited by current technology, the financial viability of what can be produced and other constraints, such as access to resources, licensing and geopolitical considerations.

“We’re depleting a fossil resource base that doesn’t get replenished, except on 100 million year timescales. And we’re depleting it on 100 year time scales”, says Carey King, an energy researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. Humans won’t be able to extract all of the world’s oil resources because it won’t be cost effective or technology limitations will still exist, King said.

Crude oil and petroleum are known as fossil fuels because they are formed from the remains of ancient plants (and to a lesser extent animals) that have turned into a mixture of hydrocarbons through decomposition.

“Oil, like natural gas and coal, is a fuel that is literally made from fossils, the dead remains of once living substances that have slowly, through a combination of pressure and temperature, been transformed into a solid substance (coal), a liquid substance (oil) and gas,” explained to Factcheck.org Michael Mann, director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and Media at the University of Pennsylvania.

He called the claim that oil is an unlimited and renewable resource silly. “Crude oil is the result of geological processes under the Earth’s surface that have been going on for hundreds of millions of years. We’re extracting it over a time frame of decades, more than a million times faster than nature could replace it”, he said.

Oil and Gas Reserves Are Limited

Climate change is a “convincing argument” against finding new ways to extract fossil fuels, further reducing oil supplies, Mann points out.

According to the US Energy Administration, the global supply of crude oil, other liquid carbon and biofuels is expected to meet global demand by 2050. “The world’s underground reserves of oil and natural gas are finite and non-renewable”, Energy Administration spokesman Chris Higginbotham wrote to AP.

Considering the limited amount of oil and fossil fuels in the world, developed countries are increasingly considering alternatives to the use of fossil fuels, which will also contribute to the suppression of climate change. This was also discussed in detail at the level of the European Union, which as part of the European Green Plan announced a ban on the sale of cars powered by internal combustion engines after 2035. However, the president of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, whose party is also the relative winner of the European Parliament elections, announced that it could be abandoned, writes our Klimatski portal.

Water Is Also Not an Unlimited Resource

The claim made by the user that there is almost as much underground oil as there is water on Earth is also not true, nor is it true that water is an unlimited resource.

While there is a large amount of water on the planet, most of it is saltwater in the oceans — and desalination is an expensive, energy-intensive process that isn’t practical, Mann told Factcheck.org, adding that fresh water is similarly “locked up” in glaciers, leaving only about 1% of the total water available for human use.

Water resources are already limited. In a 2022 report, the World Meteorological Organization estimated that “3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water for at least one month a year” – a figure expected to rise to “more than 5 billion by 2050”.

Although drinking water is often called a renewable resource, because it has a natural cycle that allows it to be reused, the total amount of drinking water on Earth is limited.

“Human beings need drinking water. In many parts of the world, including the western US drinking water is very scarce”, said Andrew Kleit, professor of energy and environmental economics at Pennsylvania State University.

In conclusion, oil is not a renewable source of energy, it is a fuel that is literally made from fossils, that is, the dead remains of once-living substances. There are no scarcity tactics employed by elites; current data indicate that, given the current rate of oil and fossil fuel consumption, supplies could be depleted in the relatively near future. However, it is to be expected that people will not use up all available reserves of fossil fuels, given that the process of energy transition towards non-carbon energy sources is underway. Also, water is not an unlimited resource either. Despite the large amount of water on the planet, only 1% is for human use.

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