Oil dependence is bad, no point in arguing against that. Except from a number of Gulf States and Norway, and a bunch of well-paid lobbyists in DC, I suppose we are all on the same page here. Propellants for vehicles based on 200 million year old dinos is not good long-term, and the resources cannot be infinite. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are alarmingly high, but I do not wish this to be another climate change post. Forget about that aspect for a while.
Think about the chemical we lab chemists use on a daily basis. First then solvents, of course. Then all the reagents. Are not almost all of them more or less derived from oil? The good old question: Where do all chemicals come from?
Does anybody have a number on for example the percentage on all organic reagents in the Sigma-Aldrich catalog that were once crude oil. Is it 90 %? More?
If organic chemistry and the oil industry were married on Facebook, I guess the time is ripe to announce an “It’s complicated.”
I am full of questions. What do you know?In the comments, chemblogo/Tweetosphere stalwarts John Spevacek and BranVanChemist mention that 1) it's the price of oil that determines the relationship between fine chemicals and petrochemicals and 2) the strong relationship between the two fields.
I confess that I'm really in John's camp on this one: economics will determine what kind of chemistry we tend to rely on. As long as black stuff from the ground is cheap enough (and we have the infrastructure to keep it cheap, including the 19-year-old E-2 on a destroyer sailing in the Persian Gulf), we'll continue to use it. I don't doubt that there is a raft of chemistry that would suddenly become a lot more attractive if the price of oil were to be artificially raised (i.e. a carbon tax?) Petroleum is incredibly useful stuff -- turning it into carbon dioxide in order to power internal combustion engines (instead of, say, saving the stuff for plastics and hexanes for chromatography columns) seems to be a little short-sighted, if your time horizon stretches for millenia.
Finally, to answer Dr. Freddy's question, I think there's too much nitrogen in the Sigma-Aldrich catalog for it all to have come from West Texas Intermediate. 70%?