If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

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If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby Sparrowgal » Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:46 am

Now this is just something I was thinking about the other day, because I was thinking about the impact of disposable nappies on the environment/landfill...

Since petroleum is used to make plastic, why doesn't the price of plastic products like bags, toys and the billions of other items go up like car petrol prices?
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby Tracker » Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:22 pm

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Sparrowgal wrote:Since petroleum is used to make plastic, why doesn't the price of plastic products like bags, toys and the billions of other items go up like car petrol prices?


Could I suggest that they likely DO.. but as the actual petroleum content is relatively small, it does not have a real impact - day to day.
Otherwise, consider that most of these day-to-day plastics are produced in China etc.etc. and there are likely special "arrangements".

If our Polies were truly interested in the environment, they would be looking to the only green (base) power - Nuclear..posting.php?mode=reply&f=19&t=695&sid=580d6a3a79d371bf203401eb4277cab0#..
and, at paying ANY-AMOUNT to those who would develop the reuse of existing plastics?
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby rg767 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:36 pm

and medicines, and synthetic chemicals...etc...
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If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby Tracker » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:49 am

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Is it not interesting that a normal and prudent person, faced with the knowledge of an inevitable shortage of something (that they REALLY need), because it is about to run out, would do all in their power to save what they have, for the most important purposes. Then, they would find other ways of doing less important things, where they can.

I do wonder just how many things will disappear with the last drop of ground-oil.

How many of them could not be produced in other ways?

How many products and services would disappear or just have to STOP, after the last drop of oil.. ?
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby rg767 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:02 am

Yes it is interesting, but history is littered with examples of civilizations coming to a crunch point, ignoring it, and failing miserably!

We do one thing very well: we are optimistic/blind to downsides to the point of absolute failure, which makes us great in some ways, and suicidal in others I suspect.
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby 470rigby » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:16 am

Sparrowgal wrote:Since petroleum is used to make plastic, why doesn't the price of plastic products like bags, toys and the billions of other items go up like car petrol prices?


Precursors for manufacture of Polymers (Plastics and Rubbers) are are not derived from Petroleum which is made by cracking/refining of crude oil. They are actually bi-products from that process and it would probably be uneconomic to process crude oil simply to manufacture Polymers. Hence, if we all drove Electric vehicles, the cost of Polymers would go up since there is no other source for the feedstocks. In that scenario, I'm not sure what would be done with the Petroleum fractions since they would then become the bi-product!

There is a quite separate complex supply/demand regime for Polymer precursors which is dependent on many factors, including the quantities of feedstocks available from Petroleum refining.

Sometimes things are in sync, for example if Petroleum demand is reduced by reduction in demand by OPEC price fixing, but the World Economy is still bouyant, competition for Polymer Precursors will see Petroleum prices and Polymer prices head in the same direction, but this is not always the case.

Demand from China is now what largely drives Polymer precursor prices, and as we know, the Chinese economy is not in sync with the rest of the world, so the the price relativities get out of whack from time to time.

A very complex issue. It would seem that nobody has given much consideration to the "unintended consequences" of the demise of the Internal Combustion Engine!


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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby rg767 » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:25 pm

Im not sure I understand what you mean.

I think when people mean petroleum, it is a sort of catch-all for petroleum products. Which as you mention are cracked from crude.

The point for me at least would not be that changes in car technology would drive a reduction in our ability to economically crack oil for the by-products, rather that a reduction in oil supply would have that same effect.

Do you mean that the secondary effect of a reduction in supply and subsequent changes to transport fuel sources would have this effect also because we wont be refining as much petrol etc?

If this is the case, wouldn't early switches of transport fuels just speed up the process, because other than this quality supplies of crude will tend to diminish with use?
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby 470rigby » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:56 pm

rg767 wrote:
Do you mean that the secondary effect of a reduction in supply and subsequent changes to transport fuel sources would have this effect also because we wont be refining as much petrol etc?



There are those that would like to see the Internal Combustion Engine abolished tomorrow due to it's habit of emitting so-called greenhouse gases. My point is that nobody seems to have addressed the possible unintended consequences of that, and in the context of your original post, the liklihood that the unavailability of the bi-products from the production of Petrol and Diesel fuels from Crude Oil refining would drive the price of Polymers (and a host of other products) up due to market demand.

There would of course be a price point where it became viable to process Crude Oil simply for the production of non-fuel products.

It's long been my view that Crude Oil (and Coal) is too valuable a source of chemicals simply to burn, and that to me is the most compelling argument for conserving it.
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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Sun Jan 31, 2010 6:06 pm

Given that coal and ethanol can be used to make many different polymers and plastics I dont think the reduction in supply of oil should be too big a problem, but we can expect price rises. Is that such a bad thing? Plastic is so cheap its continually thrown away, if it was more expensive people in general might think more about its disposal/recycling. We have vast reserves of coal in Austalia, even if we keep burning it, and ethanol is renewable, albeit at the cost of more expensive food. So many things are able to be made form natural products such as hemp and bamboo (I have a bamboo shirt on now), packaging is another big plastic user that can be replaced by natural substances, perhaps its time to give up the plastic addiction before the price rises/crude oil runs out.

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Re: If we run out of oil does that mean we run out of plastic?

Postby rg767 » Sun Jan 31, 2010 6:09 pm

Don't you think scarcity is likely to drive the price better than reduced production?

It seems to me unlikely that there would be a reduction in supply from a change to electric vehicles by itself. Realistically,petrol cars and diesel trucks aren't going anywhere just because some people don't like the internal combustion engine - so its a moot point - the only thing that will reduce their usage is reduction in supply, which puts us back to square one again. We are going to reduce supply.

I wont bite on the comment about so-called greenhouse gases.

But I agree, oil is pretty valuable stuff, and we really need to reconsider its usage/wastage, by-products or not.
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