Oil and Society

As the world's most important energy source, oil plays a vital role in society.  Oil consumption is a driving force in economic growth, and oil is the principal fuel for the world's transportation system.  Oil corporations are among the world's largest, and they wield enormnous economic and political power, often times in controversial ways. Violent conflict over the world's remaining supplies of oil  is now a dominant feature of global geopolitics.

  • SoLa: Lousiana water stories (1:46) Featured Video SoLa: Lousiana water stories (1:46)

    Date of Video: Jul 2, 2010 Everywhere you look in Southern Louisiana (SoLa) there’s water – bayous, swamps, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico. And everyone... More »

  • The political chemistry of oil (18:06) Featured Video The political chemistry of oil (18:06)

    Date of Video: Jun. 28, 2010 In the Gulf oil spill's aftermath, Lisa Margonelli says drilling moratoriums and executive ousters make for good theater, but distract from the issue... More »

Recently Updated
Arctic offshore oil exploration spill response planning Last Updated on 2012-05-11 00:00:00 Worldwide, oil and gas companies are being forced by resource declines to drill in less accessible areas, and the Arctic is their newest frontier. This article, written by Charles W. Schmidt*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth. Offshore Exploration in the Arctic: Can Shell’s Oil-Spill Response Plans Keep Up?  All around the world, oil and gas companies are being forced by resource declines to drill in less accessible areas, and the Arctic is their newest frontier. The geology above the Arctic... More »
The forgotten coast (9:59) Last Updated on 2011-07-14 00:00:00 Mayor Van Johnson of Apalachicola Florida made a desperate plea this week for more support from the government and BP. Citizens and other officials also spoke out about the issue. More »
Letter to Senate on BP Gulf research Last Updated on 2011-07-13 00:00:00 Following is the final letter with 14 organizational signatories that was delivered to all Senators in the months following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.   September 15, 2010 Re: Public access to independent scientific research assessments of the Gulf Dear Senator: As scientific organizations, we are concerned with the issue of intellectual property rights and ownership of research results that arise in the aftermath of incidents caused by industry, most recently, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The public needs access to results and conclusions not affected by legal wrangling or private ownership. We are writing specifically to request that a source of independent funding for research on actual or potential industry impacts be available and dispersed from an independent source. After the Alaska oil spill in 1989, researchers studying its effects on natural... More »
Oil and water just don't mix Last Updated on 2011-05-18 00:00:00 Oil and water just don’t mix; opinions on deepwater exploration are just as polar. This unit provides teachers with resources to teach about oil in the marine environment and to bring these issues to the surface. Lesson 1: Students will use technology to research current affairs on environmental issues pertaining to oil spills. Students will gain a background understanding of the impact of the Deep Water Horizon spill. Students will make judgments about the efficacy of cleanup response.Students will compare and contrast the efficacy of response to various oil spills.Students will discuss the importance of oil to our society. Students will investigate the chemical properties of oil. Lesson 2:Students will gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of oil to an aquatic community. Students will investigate clean-up methods for oil, highlighting the distinctions... More »
Scientific research to support offshore oil and gas decision making: evolution of the environmental studies program Last Updated on 2011-04-23 00:00:00 Editor's Note: This article is excerpted directly from National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, "Scientific Research to Support Offshore Oil and Gas Decision Making: Evolution of the Environmental Studies Program," Staff Working Paper No. 11. It has been edited only to conform to the Encyclopedia's style guidelines.   This draft staff working paper is a background piece on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Environmental Studies Program at the Department of the Interior. The Environmental Studies Program selects and funds the scientific research needed by decision makers at the Department of the Interior for offshore energy activities. This paper provides the historical context under which the Environmental Studies Program was created, discusses the shift in the program’s research focus over time, and describes issues related... More »