Information icon.svg

Campaigning for the RationalMedia Foundation 2021 board of trustees election is underway!


From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
An oil spill.
The poetry of reality
Icon science.svg
We must know.
We will know.
A view from the
shoulders of giants.

Oil is a slippery and flammable liquid. Primarily, oils are composed of long chain hydrocarbons and are non-polar, making them non-soluble in, and less dense than, water. Hence, oils will float on top of good old H2O.


Oil can come from many sources:

  • The off seas American Middle Eastern Oil Reserves, mainly in the country monarchy called Saudi Arabia.
  • It can be squeezed out of plants (this often kills the plant)
  • It can be squeezed out of whales (this always kills the whale)
  • It can be squeezed out of babies (this always kills the baby).
  • It can be squeezed out of velvet mites (Trombidiidae) for unani but you don't get much.[1]
  • It can be squeezed out of the ground (the ground often recovers)
  • It can be synthesized in a laboratory or factory when special formulations are needed or purities or qualities not refinable from rock, plant, or animal oil are required.

Common oils[edit]

Vegetable oil[edit]

Plant-based oils are often used for cooking, wood preservation and general waterproofing, and as a base for paint. While many fad diets advocate "fat free", you need some oils in your diet. Many organs require fatty acids to maintain, such as the skin and brain, and there are two fatty acids that the human body can't synthesize; Omega-3 and Omega-6. (However, your body can synthesize omega-6 fatty acids from omega-3 fatty acids; but not the other way around.)

While you need Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, your body doesn't digest them based on necessity; if you have sufficient Omega-3's but an excess of Omega-6 in your diet, you won't absorb enough of the Omega-3's. This has resulted in a bunch of quasi-woo involving fish oils, which have a lot of Omega-3, as "brain food". Generally, no, you can get enough from common vegetable oils, assuming you know which ones. Flaxseed oil has the most Omega-3, but you can't cook with it. Canola oil has the best Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio of any cooking oil, followed by hemp oil. Soybean oil is ok but not ideal. Peanut, olive and many tree nut oils contain little Omega-3 fatty acids, which is ironic considering how much attention they get for being "healthy". Palm oil doesn't have any at all.

Whale oil[edit]

Whale oil was used heavily in the past, and through the 19th century, for lamps and heating. This industry led to the near-extinction of many whale species, and resulted in generations of schoolkids forced to read Moby Dick.

Crude oil[edit]

Pumpjack oil well in Lubbock, Texas.
See the main article on this topic: Fossil fuel

Oil that is squeezed out of the ground, also known as "rock oil," "mineral oil," or "petroleum", is a source of fossil fuels. It was formed over millions of years from plant and algal matter that was covered in sediment in rivers and swamps, and prevented from decaying.

One of the distillates, kerosene, supplanted whale oil in the late 19th century -- and was itself supplanted by the electric light bulb. Fortunately for the oil producers, other distillates (such as gasoline and diesel oil) had other uses, and have given humankind a good hundred years of cheap energy. Of course, liberating this energy requires burning the petroleum distillate with oxygen from the air, which releases carbon dioxide. Since petroleum deposits take millions of years to form,[note 1] when the easy stuff to drill and pump is gone, it's gone forever.

There is a smear campaign against oil; here are some facts.

Fun time[edit]

Oils of varying formulations are used extensively as lubricants to reduce wear in machinery and to improve the experience of sex and sex toys. Do not even think of using oil to lubricate a condom, though; oils weaken the latex, increasing the chance of breaks transmission of disease. Use a water-based lubricant, folks, like the ones from Kentucky.

Public health uses[edit]

Oil can also be used in a crude form of preventative medicine, since a thin slick of oil added to bodies of stagnant water will suffocate mosquito larvae (which could grow up to spread malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, West Nile virus Eastern equine encephalitis virus, Tularemia, and itchy bites on babies). This is not practiced as much as it once was, since it also suffocates everything else trying to live in the water.[note 2]

Oil spills[edit]

In fairness any chemical that was being stored inside a boat, even if the tanker were made of iceWikipedia and carrying pepsi cola, the sheer amount of that much pepsi would be an environmental disaster waiting to happen.Wikipedia

But how long?[edit]

It is usually assumed that we will run out of oil in about 10-25 years, depending upon the source of estimation.[2][3]


  • Black gold
  • Texas tea
  • Bubblin' crude

Other uses of the word[edit]

  • Operation Iraqi Liberation, or "OIL", was the original (and apt) code name for the 2003 invasion and subsequent continuous occupation of Iraq by the United States.
  • Midnight Oil was a band from Australia. Their singer was a Member of Parliament between 2004 and 2013, and was really not very good at it.
  • Olive Oyl was Popeye's girlfriend.
  • Sulfuric acid used to be called oil of vitriol. Don't use it to lubricate your bearings, though.

See also[edit]


  1. Despite what abiotic oil advocates would like to believe.
  2. Though the petroleum fly, Helaeomyia petroleiWikipedia actually thrives in pools of petroleum at La Brea Tar Pits in California. The larvae eat other insects that have died in the pools. They can survive at temperatures of up to 38°C and exposure to mixtures of 50% turpentine or xylene in the laboratory. See: Microbiology of the Oil Fly, Helaeomyia petrolei