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Oil Slick: The Ugly Truth about Petroleum

Summary: Benjamin Kahane, an engineer who designs photovoltaic solar energy systems for SunEdison, discusses oil, its many uses in our society, and how we can transition away from it.


Petroleum — or, plainly, oil — has many applications in the industrial age. Petroleum is used to make plastics, lubricants, wax, asphalt and many other industrial products, but it’s mostly used for fuel. Oil is usually black or dark brown before any refinement; however, it also can be found in the form of tar shale, as in Colorado and Utah, and tar sands, as in Alberta, Canada. Tar shale oil and tar sands oil are more energy intensive to extract, but as oil prices go up, the choice to extract those natural resources is becoming an economic reality. Climatologist Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warns that fully exploiting Canadian tar sands and U.S. tar shale will more than double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere — what he calls “game over for the climate.”


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Benjamin Kahane is a utility scale project engineer at SunEdison, where he designs photovoltaic solar-energy systems. He has provided engineering support for the development of more than 100 megawatts of ground-mounted photovoltaic projects across North America. Kahane previously worked as a project engineer developing photovoltaic installations at Conergy. He earned his master’s degree in sustainable-energy engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.


The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.


The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL's Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology's Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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