Our world is ruled by oil. People have used oil for thousands of years, but in the last century we have begun to consume it in vast quantities. Daily oil consumption in the US, for example, rose from a few tens of thousands of barrels in 1900 to over 21 million barrels in 2000—more than 870 million gallons (3.3 billion liters) per day. Oil is our most important energy source, providing fuel to keep transportation going, and even some of the heat needed to generate the electricity on which our modern lifestyles rely. Oil is also a raw material from which many key substances, including most plastics, are made. But we need to reassess our oil dependence, since the world’s oil supplies may be gradually running out, and the scale of our oil consumption is damaging the environment.
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