A particular type of fossil fuel that is used in powering vehicles, petroleum has been widely used and offers people with a lot of advantages. However, just like other energy sources, it also has its own sets of disadvantages. Some of its common downsides are negative environmental impact, cost and availability. Its cost tends to fluctuate, and this is somehow attributed to many different factors. As for the environmental impacts, this is more on its production and combustion.
Of course, petroleum has both advantages and disadvantages that we should be aware of. Details about these are helpful to determine its proper and practical use. They also serve as guide for us especially those who are using it often for a variety of purposes.
The Advantages of Petroleum
1. It can be extracted easily.
Technologies that are used for extracting oil beneath the planet’s surface are well developed. These days, it is extremely easy to exploit oil deposits in different geological conditions. It does not matter if these reserves are to be extracted beneath the ocean’s surface or in regions with special climate conditions.
Petroleum is also not that difficult to produce, though most of the low-cost locations are already depleted. Now, it is being mined off sea coasts and tar sands. Technology for oil refineries has also reached its maturity, which means that refining it to get valuable products, such as gas and diesel, have also become quite easy.
2. It has high density.
The average 1 kilogram of burnt oil can generate up to 10,000 kilocalories. This means that, for only small amounts, petroleum can generate a substantial amount of energy.
3. It can be extracted at a low cost.
Due to the fact that petroleum production requires reduced technical and physical effort, it is sold cheaper compared to other sources of energy.
4. It can easily be transported.
Because petroleum is in liquid form, it is just easy to transport. It can be brought from extraction sites to power plants through pipes or vehicles. Aside from easy transport, it can also be stored conveniently.
5. It is highly available with good infrastructure for transport and use.
Oil is widely distributed to almost every part of the globe. In fact, there exists a massive infrastructure to transport it through ships, pipelines and tankers.
6. It has broad areas for application.
Aside from being the primary energy source of power plants to supply the high demands for energy of the modern world, it is used to power machines of all types, including heavy equipment, power generators and vehicles.
7. It is a crucial element in industries.
Besides being an essential commodity for transport, petroleum is a critical component in a wide variety of industries. It is difficult to think of another product that has such a huge role to play for creating other products, such as vaseline, medicines and clothing.
8. It can power up almost all types of vehicles.
This is an obvious advantage of petroleum. Whether they are diesel or gasoline vehicles, they can be run by oil. Using oil is beneficial in terms of satisfying our need to quickly move from one place to another.
9. It can support constant power use.
Unlike alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, oil can produce power 24/7 and is highly reliable. Plus, oil engines are a technology in a mature state and are highly reliable to work with.
10. It is a powerful source of energy.
Taking into consideration cars, they can travel longer and run faster when powered by petroleum.
The Disadvantages of Petroleum
1. Its resources are limited.
Like any other natural fossil fuel, petroleum is a limited resource. High demands for energy by the modern society have stressed the conventional sources of oil reserves. The decrease in supply is clearly indicated by the ever increasing cost of petroleum on the market these days. Now, power plants are having a hard time extracting petroleum as reserves are nearly drought. In fact, studies reveal that almost half of oil reserves (which is about 2 trillion barrels) have been utilized, where only one trillion barrels left.
There might be some other sources of petroleum on earth, but experts say that these cannot produce enough oil to sustain all our needs.
2. It contributes to environmental pollution.
Extracting and burning petroleum generates greenhouse gases that contribute to environmental pollution and, consequently, global warming. This means that degradation of our ecosystems will be made faster if we choose petroleum as our main source of energy.
3. It produces hazardous substances.
Production of petroleum, especially refining, produces harmful and toxic materials, including plastic. Take note that oil exists as a mixture of hydrocarbons with traces of sulfur and other compounds, which are elements of harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide, and plastic.
4. It is a non-renewable form of energy.
Once burned to generate electricity, petroleum cannot be replaced. Depletion of fuels can occur overtime and can lead to their limited supply. When this happens and demands are high, oil costs will significantly increase, leading economical conflicts between nations. Thus, we should find alternative energy resources, so oil reserves can still continue to supply energy for many years to come.
5. Its transport can cause oil spills.
If petroleum spills in bodies of water, adverse effects in marine life are expected. Spills have caused massive ocean pollution, causing the death of thousands of animals and fishes each year. As an example, the BP Oil Spill had caused billions of dollars in losses.
6. It sustains growth of terrorism and violence.
Truth be told, oil is drilled in some of the worst dictatorships in the world. Oil money goes directly into the hands of despots who are amassing trillions of dollars. This gives rise to violence and growth in terrorism, as oil money is somehow used in funding terrorist organizations. Aside from this, this powerful pool of money also managed to suppress voices of protests.
Despite the many advantages brought by petroleum, it still cannot be denied that it also leads to unfavorable consequences. So, we need to be aware of these factors and take them as reminders that petroleum needs to be utilized wisely.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.