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The BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has given the world a wake up call. We need to do something about our oil and petroleum consumption.

Some people say that money makes the world go round. In reality, it is our addiction to oil and petroleum products that really makes today’s world go around. All around the world, millions upon millions of cars guzzle millions of litres of gasoline a day. In the United States, 44% of the nation’s electricity generation comes from coal fired power stations. Petroleum products are also used to make toys and clothing. These are just some of the ways we are using this black gold.

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But, as most people know, it has several huge downsides. Firstly, there’s all the carbon dioxide and other poisonous gases that are released into the atmosphere. Oil and coal are the fossilized remains (that is why they are known as fossil fuels) of trees and plants from prehistoric times. These trees collected a lot of carbon through the process of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen (photosynthesis). When the trees died, they became covered in sediments and became fossilized. This meant that the large amounts of carbon stored in these trees turned into coal and oil over millions of years. When the industrial revolution began however, humans began to burn a lot of fossil fuels in a short space of time. This meant that the atmosphere has become polluted with an excess of carbon dioxide, so much in fact that it is trapping the heat from the sun and is said to be causing the Earth’s climate to heat up. This could have drastic consequences for not only mankind, but for all life.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. Humankind as a whole has become addicted to fossil fuels. We rely on it to get from place to place, to power our transport. We use it to heat our homes, and to provide them with light and electricity. If the supply of oil we currently enjoy to provide us with a comfortable standard of living was suddenly halted, the world would descend into chaos. Economies would crash. Wars would break out. Humankind would have trouble surviving such a blow. And we know that in the near future, fossil fuels will indeed run out because of our rapid consumption of them and the millions of years it takes to produce them.

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You have probably heard and seen the news of the horrendous explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed several people and polluted the Gulf of Mexico with millions and millions of gallons of oil. This goes to show that we cannot and should not risk the lives of people and the environment in order to satisfy our appetite for energy. Luckily for us, there are alternatives. Renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar can be used to power everything do, from transport to industry and beyond. All we need to do is rid ourselves of the old mentality that we can get cheap, free energy and get away with the damage that it causes to our planet.

Visit websites like Repower America to learn about renewable energy reform in North America and visit http://worldwithoutoil.org/ to learn about what the impact of a world without oil could be like.