Study shows vast amounts of ‘buried sunshine’ needed to fuel society.
A staggering 98 tons of prehistoric, buried plant material ? that’s 196,000 pounds ? is required to produce each gallon of gasoline we burn in our cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles, according to a study conducted at the University of Utah.
“Can you imagine loading 40 acres worth of wheat ? stalks, roots and all ? into the tank of your car or SUV every 20 miles?” asks ecologist Jeff Dukes, whose study will be published in the November issue of the journal Climatic Change.
But that’s how much ancient plant matter had to be buried millions of years ago and converted by pressure, heat and time into oil to produce one gallon of gas, Dukes concluded.
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Dukes also calculated that the amount of fossil fuel burned in a single year ? 1997 was used in the study ? totals 97 million billion pounds of carbon, which is equivalent to more than 400 times “all the plant matter that grows in the world in a year,” including vast amounts of microscopic plant life in the oceans.
“Every day, people are using the fossil fuel equivalent of all the plant matter that grows on land and in the oceans over the course of a whole year,” he adds.
In another calcultation, Dukes determined that “the amount of plants that went into the fossil fuels we burned since the Industrial Revolution began [in 1751] is equal to all the plants grown on Earth over 13,300 years.”