Come on a tour of our interactions with oil – from the first oil wells to the present day – and just about every use of oil – from industry to bubble bath.
VFUU shows how we use oil and the economic and environmental costs of doing so.
But don’t worry it is not a heavy book laden with jargon, conspiracy theories and vitriol.
It gives oil, and the oil industry, the credit it deserves for making our lives historically healthy and wealthy.
It also shows that it would be wise to use less oil.
And it gives some fabulous examples of people who have just got on with the job of taking oil out of their lives.
Readers have commented on its lively, pacey tone, and it explains every bit of terminology in everyday English.
Recently, we have learned that Tata will close our last remaining steel plants, and some prospective buyers plan to replace existing technology with electric arc furnaces.
Why would this be good for the industry? Simply, it would reduce energy bills as arc furnaces recycle steel instead of making it from iron ore. And that can turn around a loss-making steel plant.
You can see in the bubble that up to 12 times as much energy is used to make steel from iron ore than is used to recycle the same amount. Unfortunately, Bubblish doesn't show footnotes so you can’t see the upshot of those savings.
Here are the rest of the numbers and an outcome worthy of investment:
In 2014 the world produced 1.7 billion tonnes of steel. If we assume all the steel came from ore, and we save 35MJ of energy with every kilo of steel recycled, we calculate that we could save 58 billion megajoules of energy a year. That is a pretty meaningless number, so I divided it by the average amount of energy used to heat water in a UK home per day (16.8MJ) and the number of days in the year. The answer is that we could heat a third of UK homes (9 million) with the energy saved by recycling steel.
The VFUU Price of Oil
Today, the biggest difference between the methods of the 19th century and modern steel manufacturing is the use of oxygen instead of air to convert cast iron. However, the electric arc furnace has now made it practical to recycle steel. Recycling massively reduces the energy used to make steel – recycling uses 6 to 15 megajoules (MJ) per kilo while making it from iron uses 20 to 50MJ per kilo. And the latter number does not include the additional energy needed to get from ore to iron (20 to 25MJ per kilo).