Monday, 26 October 2009

Peak oil and limestone wetsuits


A few people have been asking me what the scoop is on limestone wetsuits - understandably, as it's a slight difficult concept to get your head around.

Essentially, the deal is this. Most wetsuits are made of neoprene, a petroleum-based substance. So like a lot of stuff, it's made of oil.

Neoprene brings several problems with disposal, as it's a pretty hazardous substance, and very difficult to recycle. But the most significant environmental issue is the sourcing of the oil. Dwindling supplies mean we're getting close to (and many commentators say we've gone past) the point where new production of oil is outweighed by growth in demand. This is the point we call peak oil (thanks Wikipedia).

As this happens, we start to seek new oil with greater and greater desperation - a notable example being the efforts to exploit the Alberta tar sands in Canada. All oil is bad. But this stuff is mad. Because of emissions incurred in production, tar sands oil is responsible for 3 times as many emissions as normal oil. Not only that, but the tar sands are often in areas of ancient boreal forest. This sort of thing is just BAD news - on all counts. Greenpeace haven't even had to use their usual tactics; they've published the report above on the financial risks BP and Shell are putting their shareholders through instead!

What all that means is that anything we can do to move away from petroleum-based products is seriously good news. So ask for geoprene when you buy your wetsuit!

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