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What Is Oil Conservation?

An offshore oil platform. It can be difficult and expensive to extract oil from under the ocean.
A pumpjack oil well.
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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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Oil conservation is an action taken to protect the oil resources of the Earth, as well as the wise management and use of these resources. Together with coal and natural gas, oil is an energy-giving substance called fossil fuel that was formed from plant and animal remains buried millions of years ago. Oil conservation is important because oil is also one of the nonrenewable resources of the Earth, which means that once it is depleted, nothing can be done to replenish it. When oil supplies are exhausted, people will be forced to make drastic changes in their lifestyle; nevertheless, there is an increasing demand for oil and other fossil fuels.

Conservation is an organized movement that began during the 19th century. This movement was established as a result of the dramatic effects of technological advances and inventions on both renewable and nonrenewable resources of the Earth. As human population increased, demands for the Earth’s resources have also increased; this resulted in the depletion of some of these resources. During the early 20th century, however, conservationists aimed to preserve the Earth’s resources for the use and enjoyment of later generations. Scientists and researchers concluded overall that Earth should be protected and its natural resources should be used wisely to assure that there is enough supply for people of the present and future generations.

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Fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas; these are the most widely used sources of energy. They are the most important nonrenewable resources, as using them could supply 88% of the world’s energy needs. Coal was the world's primary source of energy until the 20th century; with the development of internal combustion engines, however, oil use became popular as the demand for petroleum increased. The demand for oil-powered generating plants also increased due to the extensive use of electricity worldwide. In the 1960s, natural gas also became an important energy source for the production of power and heat.

The high cost and hazards of oil have prompted oil conservation efforts to save on the use of available supplies and to develop oil substitutes. Many scientists agree that the world’s energy needs must be ultimately met by other sources that do not cause pollution, such as the sun and the wind, as the use of fossil fuels has resulted in various environmental problems. The technology behind the use of nonpolluting sources, however, would need high funding, making them economically impractical for large-scale energy production. As a result, oil conservation is considered by many researchers to be the best way to help reduce pollution and other environmental problems.

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