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The earth consumes as much oil as a river every day, so will the earth get lighter and lighter?

Since its inception, human society has been consuming huge amounts of fuel all the time.

By Haas TashPublished 2 years ago 6 min read

Since the beginning of human society, huge amounts of fuel have been consumed all the time. Since the beginning of industrial society, oil has been the main fuel for human beings. According to reports, humans consume as much oil as a large river every day. So, we can't help but question, at this rate of consumption, is our earth getting lighter all the time?

For this question, first of all, we need to know how much oil human beings consume. According to statistics, humans consumed an average of 3,254.3 million tons of oil per year from 1965 to 2020. The chart below shows the line graph of the annual oil consumption of humans from 1965 to 2020. It can be seen that mankind's annual oil consumption is generally on the rise.

Change in world oil consumption from 1965 to 2020

The oil used per year is equivalent to a river?

So, is it true that the oil consumed by human beings every year is equivalent to a big river? Let's assume that the oil used in a year flows inside a river, which river's annual runoff does it happen to be equivalent to? We take the density of oil as 0.9 tons/m3, then so much oil, the total volume is 3.6 billion cubic meters.

In contrast to the Yangtze River, which has an annual runoff of 960 billion cubic meters in China, it would take humans about 270 years to reach the annual runoff of the Yangtze at the average rate of oil consumption in the past. However, it may not be appropriate to compare the Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world, with it. In contrast, according to the Chinese Ministry of Hydrology, the annual runoff (2017) of the River Yi in Shandong is about 3.8 billion cubic meters, which means that humans could consume the equivalent amount of oil as one River Yi in one year.

The River YI

So, according to such a huge consumption of oil, will it make the earth lighter? We can find out that the mass of the earth is about 60 trillion billion tons. If we want to reduce the weight of the earth by ten-thousandth of the original weight, that is, by 6 billion tons, we need at least 130 million years.

Of course, the oil on the earth should not be able to support us to burn 130 million years. According to 2020 data, global oil reserves are about 244.4 billion tons - still less than the annual runoff of the Yangtze River, but about the annual runoff of the Heilongjiang River (2017, 271.2 billion cubic meters). That's enough oil to last us about 76 years if we use it at the average rate of consumption over the past 60 years.

So after 76 years, if no new oil fields are discovered, how much lighter will our planet be? A simple calculation shows that the change would be minimal, reducing the weight of the earth by about one part in ten billion.

Why wouldn't burning oil make the earth lighter?

In fact, according to the law of conservation of mass, our earth may not even reduce its weight by one part in ten billion as mentioned above.

Let's go back to the very beginning of this question, why do we think that the weight of the earth will become lighter when oil is burned? Because in our daily life, after burning the originally large amount of wood and coal, only a small pile of ashes remains. These fuels become less after burning, and the corresponding mass naturally decreases, so it gives us an illusion that human consumption of the earth's resources will make the earth lighter.

Charcoal burning

As we have shown above by comparing the amount of oil with the mass of the Earth, even if the consumption of oil makes the Earth lighter, the effect is almost negligible. But according to the law of conservation of mass, we can answer that the Earth will not get lighter!

What is the law of conservation of mass? As the name implies, it is the matter that makes up our objects, which does not arise out of thin air and does not disappear out of thin air. The total mass of all objects in the world is a certain amount.

It is as if parents hire their children to do housework and then give them a certain amount of pocket money as a hiring fee, at which point we find that although the parents' money becomes less, the total wealth of the whole family does not change.

So when people consume resources on the earth, they are just turning one kind of material into another. For example, going from a pile of rocks to a building, or from a pile of steel to rockets and satellites, merely changes their shape.

The same is true for fuel combustion. Simply put, oil consumes oxygen when it burns, and eventually becomes water and carbon dioxide, but the total mass of oil and oxygen is the same as the total mass of water and carbon dioxide, so the mass of the earth does not decrease because of the burning of oil.

Perhaps you still have questions, that is, whether this "smoke" and carbon dioxide gas will not float away. They will not leave the Earth. All objects on Earth are subject to the Earth's gravity. Earth's gravity is like a dense outreach around the Earth's countless small hands, the Earth's every object is firmly grasped.

After the combustion of exhaust gas is no exception, each molecule of exhaust gas will be subject to the Earth's attraction and will not be separated from the Earth, so that the mass of the Earth will not be reduced by the burning of oil. And from this point of view, no matter how much fuel the earth burns, the material turned into after burning, such as ash, exhaust gas, etc. will be held firmly by the small hand of the earth's gravity, and will not make the earth's gravity lighter.

The Earth is indeed getting lighter, but there is no need to worry

If you explore more deeply, you will find that the mass of the Earth is still changing.

For one thing, the Earth's core loses energy, as most of it is consumed over the lifetime of a planet, but this can only explain a mass loss of about 16 tons per year.

On the other hand, the Earth's atmosphere does lose some of its gases from the Earth into space. The molecules in the atmosphere are so active that they are in a never-ending irregular motion, and sometimes the force of their irregular motion exceeds the force of the little gravitational hand that holds them, and they escape from the Earth and become space gas.

Because the lighter the gas, the easier it is to escape, so in the Earth's gravity environment, only the lightest hydrogen H and helium will naturally escape, the rest of the gases may escape because of solar activity, but the amount is negligible.

Will the carbon dioxide produced after the burning of oil escape? As explained earlier, it is indeed possible for CO2 to escape into space as well, but since CO2 is denser than air, and CO2 molecules are heavier, the amount of escape is relatively much smaller.

Of course, the Earth is not always paying, it also captures wandering transients from space, and this increases the absolute mass of the Earth.

According to some calculations, the Earth is losing 50,000 tons of mass every year, and it is still getting lighter even though an additional 40,000 tons of space dust will be captured by the Earth's gravity. However, even with this calculation, the net loss is only about one part per trillion per year, which is a very small percentage compared to the Earth's total mass of 60 trillion billion tons.

Countless meteorites falling on the Earth add to its weight

So it seems that our planet is indeed getting lighter, but this change has almost no effect on our daily lives. In contrast, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil releases large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. They cause the greenhouse effect and global warming, making the Earth's climate change dramatically. This, for us humans, is what has the most obvious impact. Daily life has almost no effect at all. In contrast, the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. They cause the greenhouse effect and global warming, which makes the earth's climate change dramatically. This, for us humans, is what has the most obvious impact.


About the Creator

Haas Tash

No need for deliberate pandering.

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