Almost one quarter of the oil used in the United States makes it way through Louisiana. What is this valuable substance, and why is it such a major player in the wetlands of Louisiana?
First, we are not talking about the oil that you use on salads and for frying! That stuff comes from seeds and fruits. We are talking about petroleum, which comes out of the ground. This greasy goo keeps cars, trucks, boats, and planes on the go!
Scientists say that petroleum originally formed from sea plants and animals that died millions of years ago. After these tiny creatures died, they sank to the bottom of the sea and were covered with mud. These itsy-bitsy animals and plants were squashed and mixed and then changed (over a very long time) into the goo we call oil.
For the last 140 or so years we have been pumping oil from underground and eventually from under the sea by the billions of gallons! Most oil is trapped deep beneath rocks, so we drill wells down to the oil and pump it out.
There are thousands of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and much of the petroleum or crude oil, as it is called when it first comes out of the ground, is piped through coastal Louisiana. Before things can be made out of crude oil, it must be brought to an oil refinery. Petroleum, or crude oil, is made up of chemicals called hydrocarbons. When the oil is heated in a refinery tower, the heavier hydrocarbons stay near the bottom, and the lighter ones rise toward the top. The heaviest one is used to make the gooey black substance that is used to hard surface roads with asphalt. Other heavy hydrocarbons can become grease and fuel for big ships. Lighter hydrocarbons are used to make heating oil, jet and diesel fuels, and gasoline. Hydrocarbons can be mixed with other chemicals to make detergents, plastics, fertilizers, and many other items that make our everyday lives easy!
In America we use more oil per person than any other country! Oil runs our machines and fuels our big cars, trucks, and planes. But that is only the beginning. Oil is also used to create: colors in paints, markers, crayons, and clothes; the nylon of your backpack; the plastic in your toys and video tapes; and makeup, bike tires, toothbrushes, and toothpaste too! Wow, there are seemingly millions of products made from and with petroleum!
We all need oil, but we also need to cut down on our unquenchable thirst for this product. When oil supplies run out, that is that! That's why it is called a "nonrenewable" resource.
Coastal Louisiana has miles and miles of pipelines that carry the offshore oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico to refineries. Canals have been cut all through the wetlands to carry this important material to the rest of our country. Our wetlands, whether we like it or not, are home to our nationfs critical energy infrastructure. Check out these statistics found on http://www.restoreorretreat.org/
-18 % of US oil and 24% of its natural gas production originates in, or is transported through, or is processed in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana.
-Over 20,000 miles of pipeline are located in federal offshore oil fields, and thousands more miles of pipeline are in Louisiana's inland coastal wetlands.
-Wetlands protect these pipelines and help ensure that they stay in place.
-When pipelines become exposed to waves and storms, they are a major threat to the environment because of possible oil spills and gas leaks.
-Louisiana's oil and gas industries have a value of more than 16 billion dollars.