excerpted from Chapter 5 of Stephan Malone's upcoming book titled
"Polar City Dreaming: How Climate Change Might Usher In The Age Of Polar Cities"
If you want to visualize in your mind just how much oil the world burns at any given moment, just picture the water going over Niagara Falls. The world uses about 86 million barrels of oil per day (2008 statistics), which is about 3.78 billion gallons. On average, 750,000 gallons of water fall over both the American and Horseshoe Falls every second (the flow rate varies based on power plant diversion volumes), which calculates out to roughly 84 minutes worth of Niagara Falls water, and that’s including both falls. If you have ever visited Niagara Falls, which you should at some point in your life, just look at the Horseshoe Falls, then peek over at the American Falls with it’s lesser sister, the Bridal Veil Falls. Now imagine that the falling water is gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, oil. Volume-wise, that’s how much we are burning, every single day, 24 hours a day. Eighty four minutes worth of Falls volume. That translates to an incredible amount of atmospheric carbon that was previously locked in the earth’s crust for millions of years. Remember that everything I am saying here is plain fact, data derived from government sources and raw calculation. I couldn’t possibly make any of this up on my own power.
But does it really matter? Not really. It is a reasonable projection to state that we are simply going to burn through as much fuel as we possibly can, for as long as we can, until we cannot do so any more. There is no government system currently in place, anywhere in the world, that has the political will to radically change our addiction to oil, and there probably never will be. The scientific front that hosts the datasets revealing radical earth changes, from increasing melt-ponds in the Arctic to confused birds migrating at wildly different times than they should be, will never have a unified front, nor be heard to make any significant difference. Politicians seek out votes. Scientists seek out funding. And so we continue onward, driving into the hazy and quite misted future, to a destination that is uncertain and unsure.
(c) 2012 Stephan Malone
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