Recently, a bunch of oil blew up in Saudia Arabia, so suddenly US shale oil producers are all: OK let’s ramp up production, more oil and natural gas!

How about an alternative to that option, since:

  1. Nearly half of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions are from petroleum use, and
  2. Production of oil and gas (and other activities) causes emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
  3. Like cigarette companies before them (even using some of the same consultants), oil and gas companies deceived people for decades about the harms of using fossil fuels.
  4. Fossil fuels aren’t cheap. Their executives and shareholders rake in cash instead of paying for the massive health and environmental costs of their products. It’s a known market failure.
  5. We’re producing unfathomable amounts of plastic (using oil and natural gas), and most of it ends up in the landfills.
  6. We don’t need another war for oil.
  7. Animals and wildlife are dying from oil pollution from spills, and we’re losing species at 1000 times the normal rate in part due to climate change.
  8. Eventually we’ll run out of oil, or it will get too expensive per unit of energy, and then we’ll have to start looking for it in the far reaches of the solar system or something…

Here’s an idea: Use less oil and natural gas. Stop using it wherever we can.

Energy is a big one, especially transportation. We need to drive less, get more fuel efficient cars, take mass transit. We also can stop using oil and gas for electricity generation; natural gas is not a bridge fuel, and as already mentioned it’s not cheap. But lots of oil is also used to make things we use every day. This post is focusing on the many things we buy and consume that have oil or natural gas in them.

Some really good things, like for fighting fires, for medicines and medical innovations that help people, are made out of petrochemicals. On the whole, however, oil has a lot of cleaning up to do, as evidenced by the reasons above, among others. In The Climate Economy, we aim for business models that are good for the economy, the environment, and humanity, so oil needs to get with the program. By any measure, we have to use less, stop using oil and natural gas however we can, and try to find every less harmful substitute and alternative that we can. How do we do that?

You can read this great article with 10 things you can do right away to reduce your use of fossil fuels.

There are always the 3 tried and true friends:

  • Reduce: drive less, reduce electricity use, try and cut down on the amount of things you buy, buy gently used. Check packaging, buy the one with less packaging, and check ingredients (food and drugs also have petrochemicals). Be aware so you aren’t buying bad stuff.
  • Reuse: use it again, and again, and again.
  • Recycle: take it to the recycle center, put it in the proper bin, or find out if you can send it back to the company when you’re done (lots of companies do this). Read about the amount of waste in clothes alone, which nowadays contain a lot of, you guessed it, oil. Take it to Goodwill!

But the truth of the matter is, it’s really hard because oil is in a lot of stuff we use, probably stuff we don’t even know about. But if we know, then maybe we can fix it! Or at least we can be thinking about it. Here’s a handy graphic from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (click on the image for a larger PDF):

oil uses

There are many more (thousands of) uses not included in this image. So what are we to do?

Let’s make a spreadsheet listing all the products that use oil and/or natural gas and we’ll try and come up with as many alternatives as possible! Check out the Stop Using Oil spreadsheet. It’s a work in progress! We added all the items from the IOGP image above, some others we found online, and we’ll add in any more that are missing. Now, we’ll find all the alternatives that we can. Over time, we should be able to find alternatives for everything that uses oil. (We’ll do agriculture in another post, yikes.) We are not encouraging anyone to do anything dangerous or illegal, we are just providing this information for educational purposes. Use your discretion in seeking appropriate alternatives where it works. There are very few perfect solutions but we can do better. Again: It’s a work in progress! So many things there!

You can help! Besides just reading and sharing this post and the spreadsheet, you can add your ideas and links! The editable spreadsheet is available via the CLimate Economy Action Network. You can add to the spreadsheet, and join in to this discussion and many others. Hope to see you there!