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Q & A: oil and warming

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Most recent answer: 12/09/2009
Q:
re boiling point of oil vs water - do you think that with all of the oil that is and has been extracted from the earth that this oil may have been insulating our planet from global warming and should we now be pumping back in maybe some vegetable oil to replace our mistake?
- john
brisbane,queensland,australia
A:
No, the heat exchange with the deeper parts of the earth is not the key element in setting the surface temperature. The general problem with burning fossil fuels is that they release CO2, which helps trap infrared radiation, reducing its ability to cool the earth by escaping into space.

It would be great if there were a way to get enough photosynthesis going to not only supply all our fuel needs but also convert extra CO2 into oil to re-inject back into the ground, just to lower the CO2 level. However, that is far beyond any reasonable hope for biofuels. It's more realistic to try to replace fossil fuel use with wind, solar, nuclear, etc., and to sequester (bury) much of the CO2 generated by the remaining fossil fuel plants.

Mike W.

(published on 12/09/2009)

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