We use many forms of oil each day and would be lost without it. Nations go to war over it. But should life be dominated by fuel supplies that will eventually be exhausted, and why did Britain run out of petrol in September?
Oil and petrol
Why is oil important (major source of energy, for heating; used as a lubricant, "oiling the wheels"; vital in transport, petrol refined from crude oil)? Why is it a "fossil fuel" (oil formed by the crushing of huge amounts of planktonic plants and animals (fossils) underground about half a billion years ago)? When will this kind of oil run out (roughly a third of all existing fossil fuels used already, only about a quarter of total supply remains undiscovered)? What can be done (oils can be derived from plants, for instance, olive oil, sunflower oil; use manufactured lubricants and fuels; use lots of coal, wood etc, provided the pollution problems are solved)? Why was there a petrol crisis (fuel prices went up, because of taxes and the world price of oil, so farmers and lorry drivers blockaded the petrol refineries)?
This picture is from Azerbaijan on the borders of the Caspian Sea (the world's largest piece of inland water) in Central Asia. Find on a map the nations which border the Caspian (Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran). How many of them used to be in the Soviet Union (all except Iran)? Which other nations border Azerbaijan (Armenia, Georgia, Chechnya, Turkey)? Why has the area been in the news in recent years (conflct between Azerbaijan and neighbouring Armenia over disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian wars against independence movement in Chechnya)? What is there of interest in Central Asia (thousands of years of history, many kingdoms and empires; such famous warriors as Persia's Cyrus the Great, the Roman general Pompey, Alexander the Great, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, have fought to control the region)?
How may people out for a swim end up in hospital, or in a wheelchair (by diving into water which they think is deeper, so they break their back and are paralysed; by swallowing polluted water)? Never dive into shallow water, or where there may be rocks under the surface.
Tell the story of the two boys in the picture. Who are they? Why are they swimming near oil derricks?
Should fuel price protesters be allowed to blockade depots?
Peaceful protest is part of democracy. Most people supported the blockades and were willing to tolerate the inconvenience. If you think your business is going bust you have to take action. The government has made some concessions, so the protest worked.
The blockades were disastrous: medical services were endangered, holidays spoiled, Britain brought to a halt. Petrol is our lifeblood; no one has a right to endanger its supply. People didn't support another blockade and the Government hasn't conceded much.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at the university of Exeter