Friday, October 3, 2008

Buy a large American flag for every molecule in a droplet of oil

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought an American flag for every molecule in a droplet of oil.

At a McCain-Palin rally, Sarah Palin said,
Oil and’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag the molecules where it’s going and where it’s not. In the sense of the Congress today they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So that I believe that what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped’s got to flow into the domestic markets first.
While different varieties of petroleum consist of different combinations of compounds, one representative compound is iso-octane, which has chemical formula C8H18 and atomic mass 114. A possible mass for an oil droplet is 7 x 10-15 kg.  Iso-octane has a density of .691.  Dividing by the atomic mass, multiplying by the density, and multiplying by Avogadro's number gives us a total of 25.5 billion molecules in an oil droplet.  A 5' by 8' heavyweight American flag can be bought for $96.89.  So buying a large American flag for every molecule in an oil droplet would cost $2.47 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.