7 Important Uses For Crude Oil And Why It Matters

When we think of oil, we tend to think of fuel for our cars, trucks, and planes, and heating oil. However, there are a myriad of uses for crude oil that affects our lives – which means that reducing our dependence on oil may not be as easy as buying a hybrid car.

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According to the Energy Information Administration, here is the breakdown of U.S. Petroleum Consumption in 2001:

  • Gasoline (Used to fuel cars) – 44%
  • Heating Oil (Used to heat buildings), and Diesel Fuel – 19%
  • Other Products – 15%
  • Jet Fuel – 8%
  • Propane – 6%
  • Residual Fuel Oil (powering factories, fueling large ships, and making electricity) – 5%
  • Asphalt 3%

As you can see, there are a lot of important uses for crude oil besides just fueling your car.

7 Important uses Of Crude Oil


This is probably the most widespread use of oil that I can think of. Plastic is used in just about everything that you can find in a store. If an item doesn’t contain plastic, then it is probably stored or packaged in the oil based polymer!

Plastic is also used in the production of computer cases, shoes, car bumpers, kids toys, and thousands of other everyday items. Just take a quick look at every electronic device that you own (cell phone, MP3 player, cameras, routers, speakers, etc), and you’ll be sure to find plastic.

Because of it’s far-reaching impact, this has to be one of the most important uses of crude oil! In fact, many of the items on this list appear here simply because of their heavy reliance on plastics.


Petroleum is used to help make clothing non-flammable and colorful. It is used in the production of rayon, nylon, polyester, and even artificial furs.

Also, hangers are strengthened by petroleum-based resins.


According to Conoco Phillips, couch cushions are often filled with durable, lightweight polyurethane foam. Also, if you have carpet or linoleum flooring, you probably have a petroleum based product in your home.


The insulation that you find in your home – which keeps unwanted heat from escaping or entering – is a petroleum based product! This means that we depend on crude oil to regulate the temperature in our homes in more ways than we realize.

Kitchen Items

There are a number of items in your kitchen that rely on petroleum as a part of their production. For your refrigerator, the molded interior panels, door liners, and even the foam insulation are all manufactured using crude oil. Many stoves function by using natural gas.

Most of us now use non-stick pots and pans. The coating that provides temperature resistance (PTFE) is created by using petroleum.


I already mentioned above that many car bumpers are made with plastics. However, that’s not the only place where crude oil is used in the manufacturing of your car.

In the same Conoco Phillips infographic, it tells us that:

High-performance plastics have replaced heavier materials throughout the average vehicle – from the interior to the engine block – reducing weight and improving fuel economy, and enhancing safety.

Crude oil is also important in the production of you car’s hoses, wiring, and many fluids (antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid, motor oil, and lubricating grease).


Yes, crude oil plays a part in the growth of your food. Fertilizer is something that relies on petroleum; thus, when the price of oil goes up, it gets more expensive to grow food.

Many of our food items are stored and or packaged in plastics as well; meaning that crude oil plays a large part in the production of your food.

This is one of the things that makes high oil prices so scary. If it costs more money to grow, store, package, transport, and regulate the temperature of our food, then that cost will be passed on to the consumers!

What This Means For Us

The price of crude oil means a lot more to us than just paying a few dollars more at the pump. As we can see, oil is important to the production and transportation of many of the items that we use on a regular basis.

This means that many sectors of the economy will be adversely affected by increasing oil prices! I guess this will really crush the dreams of those who try to organize a gas boycott!

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Last Edited: 25th January 2012

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  1. says

    Oil is such an important part of our energy needs. Thanks for pointing out just how important a role it plays in our lives. That is why we need an energy policy that will provide the resources we need. I don’t mean the government sponsoring wasteful “alternative” energy with our tax dollars. I mean letting the free market develop energy at market prices. This is the most efficient way to meet our future needs. The market will provide the energy we need with the most efficient means possible.
    Thank you.

  2. says

    I think we’re in a tough spot right now in regards to our country’s energy policy. We’re not allowing anyone to drill – with moratoriums on gulf drilling, not drilling in ANWAR, and tons of restrictions elsewhere. Instead we’re going to Brazil and telling them how we’re going to be buying their oil – at inflated prices of course. No wonder our oil prices are rising – and will continue to rise. We need it for so much in our lives, yet we’re not willing to develop our own resources. In some ways I think this is the government’s way of trying to push unsustainable “green” energy solutions on us when if left up to their own devices they wouldn’t be able to succeed in the marketplace – because they’re just too inefficient.

    • says

      Exactly Peter! I 100% agree with you. The market will move to the most efficient “alternative” or “green” energy sources when it’s economically feasible. Instead our government is subsidizing inefficient wasteful “solutions” (i.e. ethonal) with much needed taxpayer dollars and deliberately raising the cost of conventional energy. More evidence that big government doesn’t work.

  3. says

    I think that most people never stop to think about how many ways we use oil. Our entire economy would crumble without it and not just because of the products but because of lost jobs from drilling to manufacturing. We do have drilling here, but EPA restrictions have stopped new refineries or updating of old refineries and that’s part of the problem of getting oil to the consumer in any form.

  4. says

    People don’t realize that 99% of things we touch is made from oil. Oil is here to stay. The fear mongers of a dwindling supply get on my nerves. If we ran out of oil, this world would collapse. Drill baby drill.

  5. michael v says

    Without being political I must point out what is only my opinion. I truly believe that the Obama agenda is to have inflation which is a hidden tax on the people due to over printing money. He also wants a trigger price for gasoline to be forced to “mandate ” economy crushing green technology at the worst time. I again believe he wants high prices and a crushed dollar. Also the energy policy is wrong. Although i have been a solar installer for 10 years, I believe that our own coal and oil must be used for the good of the nation. We want to be strong, healthy and independent. Independence would stop our dependence on the middle east, Venezuela and other like them . This would be opposite to globalization. Strong ? Why would he crush the dollar which will only lead to high fuel and commodity prices to be bought with a crushed dollar. God blesses me everyday and when Obama was coming into office , he told me to prepare for 8 years of suffering. I purchased commodities and oil and things that would do good with a weak dollar and inflation. I am not being left or right. We have to plan our financial assets for different agenda’s with different Administrations. Algae and waste fuel before food fuel. Solar and wind would make great additions but cleaner 2011 Coal and oil are her , in mass quantities and would create Jobs, stronger economy, independence. Just my thoghts….

    • Michael V says

      Never stop working on and using green alternatives. geo thermal, wind, solar, waste and algae are technologies we must use. It just seems like the politicians and lobbyists have to have it one or the other at our expense. With the exception of corn, i would be using ALL the rest. Will we ever ? i don’t know

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