Do we need animal materials to extract or refine petroleum?
June 6, 2014 2:52 PM   Subscribe

The reliance of industrial agriculture on petroleum products is fairly well-documented. Is the reverse also true? Would we be able to produce oil without industrial farming?

More broadly my curiosity is about the relationship between industrial agriculture and petroleum extraction/refining.
I know that oil is generally thought of as being the product of long-dead animals (hence, "fossil fuel," actually not dinosaurs but plankton), but I'm looking for other connections.
Do we use animal products in the production of plastics, for example?
posted by Edna Million to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oil appears in petroleum seeps on the Earth's surface, so as far as extraction goes, a vanishingly small amount relative to the current global consumption level doesn't require any industry at all of either kind.
posted by XMLicious at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2014

Making gasoline from bacteria discusses research into bioengineered bacteria that make custom hydrocarbons. The article discusses their use for fuels, but what these non-animal organisms would produce could just as well serve as feedstocks in plastics, fertilizer or pesticide/herbicide production pipelines that ultimately make products used in agriculture.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on June 6, 2014

You may be interested in Carbon Democracy by Timothy Mitchell which explores the relationship between resource extraction and our structural society.
posted by odinsdream at 3:53 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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