Have Some Oil With Your Cereal And Toothpaste

Sunday’s New York Times had a great piece on how “oil oozes through your life.”  The article points out that whale oil used to be the go to energy source in the 18th and 19th centuries, but more than a century ago petroleum became the major source of fuel. Oil is abundant and with some laboratory effort it can be turned into more things than you can imagine.

Here’s An Oil Breakdown:

From a typical barrel of oil:

  • about 46% is becomes gasoline
  • 40% becomes jet and fuel oil
  • 2% morphs into petrochemicals (like polyethylene and benzene) used in everyday products,
  • the remainder used for other things.

Although the 2% sounds like a small amount, it oozes into an awful lot of stuff.  Even though oil prices have risen and many businesses try to cut down on their use of petroleum based materials, there aren’t many alternative options to expensive, but versatile, petroleum. And, farms and groceries depend on fuel for shipping.  Many foods are grown with petroleum based fertilizers.


Oil Is In More Products Than You Think

Here’s some examples of how oil seeps into the food we eat and the medicines we take:

  • Vanilla ice cream: “Vanillin,” an artificial vanilla flavoring (check your ice cream labels) is often petroleum derived.
  • Preservatives: BHA or BHT – you guessed it, from oil – make an appearance in your cereal, meat, gum, beer, and baked goods to help keep colors bright, flavors flavorful, and fats from going rancid.
  • Vitamins, pain relievers, and capsules for your medicine: Guess what – Excedrin has propylene glycol (so does engine coolant), and the capsule shells for many medications that are meant to dissolve in your stomach often hail from petroleum.
  • Toothpaste: Brands like Crest are made with propylene glycol which serves as a binding agent (and an antifreeze in other forms).
  • Oh, and if you play golf:   that dimpled little ball that you might love or hate is made from materials that are 90% petroleum based!

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