Thursday, March 23, 2017

Polyester, the Petroleum product in EVERYTHING. Part II

Last post we talked about Polyester and a little bit how it's made and how it comes from Petroleum. This post we're going to talk about what Polyester is in. And boy, is it a lot of stuff.

First, Polyester is in clothes. A lot of clothes. You know those Nike shorts you have? Polyester.

And what are you playing wearing your Nike shorts? Maybe it's soccer.



Which is partially made of Polyester.

Or Basketball.


Which is also partially made of polyester.

Fine, you've had enough of ball related sports. You want to go waterskiing!

That lifejacket though?


Polyester.

And the rope pulling you?

Polyester.

We won't even talk about how the Skiis are also a petro-product.

But you've had enough of these sports that use petrochemicals. You're going home!

But wait, you're seatbelt!



Also polyester.

The drapes in your house,
Polyester.



Okay, you're leaving, you're skipping town. Away from all the plastic, you're going to the forest!

But your tent, polyester. Your towels. Polyester. Much of your clothes. Polyester. Your fishing pole is made of plastic. Your underwear is a polyester cotton blend. Your blankets, your pillows, your sleeping bag. Polyester.

Finally, you run naked into the forest. Away from all the petro-products.

Really, that's all you can do to escape it. It's EVERYWHERE. What does this highlight? The need for research into petrochemical alternatives. Petroleum has INVADED our lives. We won't reduce our oil dependency without reducing our petrochemical dependency. Reducing our automobile usage is not enough!


Polyester, the Petroleum product in EVERYTHING. Part 1

Have you ever played the game Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Talking about Polyester is a little bit like that. One, it's in a lot of things. Two, to look at how Polyester is made and how it comes from Oil is a bit like the above mentioned game.

Plus, it's complicated.

So what is Polyester? First, it's important to understand what a Polymer is, which is what Polyester is. A polymer is a substance that's made up of a lot of little similar substances stuck together. It's basically one substance repeated a bunch of times until it makes one larger substance, does that make sense?

That's what Polyester is.




Now specifically, it's a synthetic material most commonly made from Polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE. Now what is Polyethylene terephthalate? It's a thermoplastic polymer. We know what polymers are, so what's a thermoplastic? It's a plastic that's pliable.

Now, what is PET made from?


Ethylene glycol and Dimethyl terephthalate.

Where does Ethylene glycol come from? Well it comes from Ethylene.

Now this is the important part. Ethylene is a PETROCHEMICAL that comes oil refining process, specifically steam cracking.

The important part there is that's it's a petrochemical. Something that derives from Petroleum.

And that's our bingo. This would be where we go, HAH, Kevin Bacon! Now you knew from the start that Polyester came from Petroleum, I kind of spoiled that part. But now you see exactly how it comes from Petroleum. That's the important part. It's not as simple as, you have oil and then next step you have Polyester. The system in which we develop these petrochemicals is VERY complex. It involves many steps.

Which is why it's important to highlight just how pervasive petrochemicals are in our day to day lives. They're in a lot of things, and it's not easy to find out exactly what because the process is so complex.

In Part II I'll explore just how much stuff Polyester is in.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

No Place too Risky to Find Oil


The higher demand for oil has prompted oil companies to start drilling in risky territory. However, continued oil spills have forced people to start thinking about what drilling does to our planet, and calls for alternative options.

These alternatives have been proposed as utilizing public transportation or switching to an electric powered car, but how much of a difference would this make? Apparently not necessarily enough to stop these risky drilling proposals. Perhaps a tax on oil would slow these projects? According to Ian Parry, an employee at the environmental think tank, Resources for the Future, seems to think this tax would still not sway the United States from being oil dependent. So how do we fix this problem?

The International Energy Agency proposed a rather intense scenario that would help the United States cut consumption by 29 percent in just 23 years. Sixty percent of that cut would be from using cleaner modes of transportation. The rest made up of using different modes of electricity to heat homes and power buildings.

The implementation of a plan like this would benefit the United States in many ways. It would decrease our reliance on other countries for oil and we would be less susceptible to rising oil prices. Greenhouse gases and pollution would also decrease. The thing is that these types of plans take time, and with oil spills and ongoing risky drilling projects, it might not be a luxury that we have.

Source: http://www.cfr.org/oil/reducing-us-oil-consumption/p22413

Turning Seawater Into Fuel; The Future of a World Moving Away From Oil


According to the US Navy they have developed a ship that can be completely powered by seawater, eliminating their need for oil. Even though the plan turned out not to be as green as one would think, it poses the question, what if some ground-breaking development completely eliminated our reliance on oil? What would happen? Dr. Walter Ladwig III, an international relations professor at King’s College in London answered.

Say this sort of technology was created and was able to be geared towards powering our cars and homes, our reliance on these countries in the Middle East that provide oil, would greatly decline. Ladwig suggests that in Saudi Arabia specifically, we would see an intense Arab Spring if money from the US were to halt. This is due to the fact that many people who are benefiting from the oil money, are buying off those in politics, and without that money, the country would see a vast political change. 

In contrast, in developing countries like Nigeria, a sudden decline in demand for oil would be devastating to the economy. A decline in power would also hit Russia, a country who heavily relies on the income of oil and gas.

When we think of new technologies that can power our lives it is easy to only focus on the good it will do for our planet and health. However, it is interesting to consider what this would do to the places that rely on the trade of this resource to keep the lights on. Would they find something else to generate money? Or would the reduction of oil usage devastate half of the world?

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/what-would-international-relations-be-like-if-oil-wasnt-important

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't believe the propaganda, hybrid vehicles ARE better for the environment.

Maybe this happened to you like I remember it happening to me. About 10 years ago I was talking about the Prius and it's reduced emissions with a friend before I got a stern rebuke along the lines of "but the Prius is actually worse for the environment!"

I asked how and I got some long explanation about the dangers of Nickel mines and how shipping the Prius was so bad for the environment it actually negated the reduced emissions of the Prius.

And I believed it.

After that I saw that same argument against the Prius on social media many times. Facebook posts with titles like "DID YOU KNOW?!" with fancy graphics illustrating how the Prius was worse for the environment than a hummer. Sensationalist but, it seemed like it could be true, right?

Wrong. In fact, that's an argument started by Oil Industry intended to specifically discredit hybrid cars, which around 10 years ago, were becoming increasingly popular.

According to this post on reddit the viral post about Prius batteries was entirely propaganda.



The supposed incredibly toxic nickel mines were actually just incidents that had occurred decades before the creation of the Prius.



And the environmental cost of shipping cars? Completely overstated.

Hybrid cars are in fact better for the environment than normal cars, something many people believed but others, like myself, questioned due to oil industry propaganda. Nevertheless the moral here should be "do the research yourself!" 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hidden Oil under our feet (Literally)

While we focus on the different petroleum products we consume in our day to day lives, we often don't think about where some of that oil comes from. When we think about oil drilling, the first places that come to our minds are places like the Middle East, or Oil Rigs drilling deep below the ocean, or maybe even Texas.

The idea of drilling for oil seems foreign to us in the Pacific Northwest. That doesn't happen around here.

But a little closer than we may think is the third largest Oil Field in the United States. Where is it exactly? It's not some dry arid environment that we picture when we think of Texas or Middle Eastern oil wells.

It's Los Angeles.

Deep beneath the City of Stars lies hundreds, if not billions, of barrels of oil.




Some Pump Jacks sit right inside residential areas.

Other Pumps are hidden in buildings all over.


Thousands of Oil Jacks, some hidden and some in plain sight, litter Los Angeles, the second most populous metropolitan area in the United States. 

Oil isn't just inside the daily products we use, for many, it's right under their feet. 

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/the-urban-oil-fields-of-los-angeles/100799/




Activated Charcoal - Everyone's Favorite Ingredient

https://blaqmask.com/

From masks, soaps, and scrubs, to toothpaste and juice, activated charcoal is a common ingredient found in many trendy products these days. 

Activated charcoal or activated carbon has been used for centuries to decontaminate water and remove toxins from the body. But traditionally, when you think charcoal, you think black soot remnants from a campfire or a toxic coal mining environment. 

So, how do we go from burnt campfire soot to facial exfoliator? 

Well, as it turns out most activated charcoal-based products are produced with natural ingredients that produce zero greenhouse gasses, like coconut husks and bamboo. 

Coconut shell and wood are renewable resources. Bamboo grows quickly, making it an ideal base for activated carbon. Coconut plantations provide the benefit of trees, while still providing the benefits of their shells. 

The process of carbonization (converting coconut shells to charcoal) is surprisingly non-toxic. Volatiles released during the carbonization process include methane, CO2, water vapor, and other organic vapors. Disruptive technology is used to prevent the emission of greenhouse gasses during the carbonization process. Coconut shells are chared in a reactor, which captures the greenhouse gasses and uses them in a controlled manner for the production of thermal energy. 

As long as the benefits of activated charcoal will continue to adorn the beauty industry, we can rest easy knowing that activated charcoal is an eco-friendly ingredient and a great alternative to other petroleum-based and micro-plastic based products. There are no serious health or environmental risks associated with activated charcoal products, so get to scrubbin’ for that soft toxin-free skin. 

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