With global temperatures rising 1°C in the last 100 years environmental-conscious individuals are starting to find proactive ways to reduce carbon output. The effects of oil on carbon emission are well known and has driven a greater demand for electric cars which have the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 20%.
With the threat of changing of consumer habits, oil and gas companies are looking for an alternative source of income – plastic.
Plastic main ingredients are from freshly extracted fossil fuel in oil refineries and gas processing plants. Oil and gas countries are temporarily repelling the shift away from oil demand to increase plastic production in search for profits.
Even though global supply of plastics is greater than demand, the U.S. are predicted to increase plastic production by roughly 50% in the next years – investing $50 billion into plastic production facilities. If this keeps continuing then by 2050, plastic will consume 15% of the overall global carbon budget.
However, there is good news. Plastic production is only cost effective if there is high demand for oil and gas. This is because only a fraction of oil and gas is efficient for use in the production of plastics. These materials — natural gas liquids from gas development and naphtha from oil refining — exist in abundance because there is demand for the other components of the gas and oil.
Therefore, if demand drops for oil and gas, plastic will start to become too expensive for energy companies to produce it.
Further, more than 90 countries are currently changing plastic legalisations trying to reduce plastic production. In Australia, we have banned all single use plastics. Yet we can eliminate plastic at the source by reducing our oil and gas use.
U.K. and France have started implementing this by banning the sale of petroleum cars from 2040. But we can all accelerate this process by our day-to-day decisions, by reducing your purchases that contain plastic which reduces demand for production.
And if you’re in the market for a car, go electric!
CIEL. (2022). Untested Assumptions and Unanswered Questions in the Plastics Boom. Retrieved, from http://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Fueling-Plastics-Untested-Assumptions-and-Unanswered-Questions-in-the-Plastics-Boom.pdf
Department of Energy. (2014). "History of the Electric Car,". Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car.
Fossil fuel and plastic: what’s the link? – We ask our lawyers. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/opinions/fossil-fuel-and-plastic-what-s-the-link-we-ask-our-lawyers/
Written by Calum Stephenson