Oil goes down: pollution goes up

Oil goes down: pollution goes up

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At this point, surely no one knows what will happen to oil prices but what is certain is that it does not seem that in the short term we will see values ​​that exceed 100 dollars per barrel since this decrease, according to analysts and the Agency itself Energy International, not only associated with short-term effects caused by the drop in demand in European countries or some emerging economies that are not growing as expected, or because the tensions of the Arab Spring have not led to a significant drop in supply. but also, and very importantly, by the increase in the supply of oil products from the US.

The emergence of the hydraulic fracturing technique has allowed a significant amount of unconventional oil to be placed on the market. The OPEC countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have announced that they do not plan to reduce production to increase prices as they have done too often. The reason must be found in the need for OPEC to maintain the consumption model based on oil, which could begin to be in serious danger of maintaining prices at the $ 100 border.

High oil prices have pushed the private and public sectors to invest significant amounts in research and technology that has allowed a leap forward in the hydraulic fracturing technique, achieving extraction competitiveness at $ 50; but they have also allowed the development of the electric vehicle, which is increasingly competitive and with ranges of autonomy that grow year after year and endanger the OPEC model where, not in vain, mobility and transport account for about 70% of oil consumption worldwide and is extraordinarily dependent. 98% of the energy resources used to move people and goods are derived from oil. Electricity, natural gas and renewable energies are testimonial, if not insignificant, in the first sector of world energy consumption.

Far are the apocalyptic arguments of the dreaded peak oil of 2007, the date when the demand for crude oil exceeded production capacity for the first time in modern history. The lack of energy resources would raise the prices of a barrel of oil to values ​​that could hardly sustain economies. Two of the three pillars of energy policy were at risk: the guarantee of supply and the economic sustainability of the system. But the third of the pillars was undoubtedly gaining importance, environmental sustainability, which for the first time would see favored the necessary transition of the energy model towards less carbon-intensive energy sources, although, all said, it is not for strictly environmental reasons.

Oil is not running out, in fact it seems that we may even be entering an era of energy abundance and the low economic cost, in the absence of facing environmental externalities, will allow economies to grow again as if nothing had happened.

But in the absence of economic interest and no need for energy resources, the energy transition is still absolutely necessary and, we have only one argument, perhaps the most important for humans: our health.

The great victim of this drop in oil prices will be the commitment to sustainable mobility. The necessary energy diversification of the transport sector, today 98% dependent on a single resource, oil, will be harmed, as well as the possibility of using cleaner energies in private mobility in cities, where levels of energy are too often exceeded. atmospheric pollution. There will also be no economic reasons to encourage the use of public transport compared to private vehicles, due to an obvious issue such as the reduction in the price of fuel with respect to the increasing costs of the public transport system that are transferred to citizens, via rates.

We need a shift towards cleaner fuels

Only a courageous and daring change in the taxation of mobility and in the fight against pollution emitted by road traffic and maritime transport would allow the work carried out since 2007 not to be ruined when the loss of competitiveness in road transport caused a firm commitment to the transport of goods by rail and when the need to reduce energy expenditure in urban mobility led to the implementation of technological innovation programs in the automotive sector, clearly betting on the electric vehicle in urban environments and by natural gas in long-distance road transport and shipping.

The high prices of diesel and gasoline have demonstrated the need to cope with the change to cleaner fuels. These, despite being cheaper, require heavy investment in vehicles and charging infrastructure. In the same way, the rise in fuel prices has stimulated the prioritization of public transport and bicycles, as vehicle manufacturers have invested in innovation to reduce polluting emissions.

It is necessary to remember: the one who pollutes, pays

Can we leave our health in the hands of the price of oil? There is only one answer: no! We need to face openly and without fear the fact that those who pollute in their mobility pays. In fact, what should be scary and even ashamed is that today in our country who makes the decision not to pollute in their mobility, acquiring a clean vehicle, is the one who pays when they face alone and, out of their pocket, an increase in the costs that in the best of cases is 30%.

Ecology Journal