|The use of petroleum products
does not just impact the day to day lives of humans, but rather every living
thing on planet earth.
The environment is in great peril. Enormous amounts of pollution and environmental degradation has occurred as the direct result of the use and extraction of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide, one of primary gases emitted when oil and other fossil fuels are burned, is the principle culprit of the environmental degradation seen today, as it is responsible for trapping more heat within the earth’s atmosphere, contributing significantly to global warming and air pollution. As Global Warming continues, scientists predict an increased desalination of the ocean due to the rapid melting of glaciers, which will inevitably harm all forms of aquatic life. There is also a correlation between increased ocean temperatures and exceedingly ferocious weather patterns. As temperatures continue to increase, altering fragile habitats for animals and plants, and ecosystems continue to be destroyed, all living organism will feel the impact. “By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth's land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction” (Roach, 2004). The burning of fossil fuels also affects the quality of air in which we breathe. Excess Nitrogen dioxide and Nitric Oxide, can irritate lungs, cause bronchitis, pneumonia, and decrease resistance to respiratory infections, as well as create smog (UCS, 2002).
Not only does the practice of burning oil pollute the planet, but in the process of
|extracting oil, there
are often many environmental consequences. Think back to 2010 and the BP oil
spill that occurred off of the gulf coast. Almost five million barrels of
crude oil was released into the ocean (Hoch, 2010), before the leak was
capped. The result of this environmental catastrophe was the death of
countless aquatic animals and birds, as well as potentially creating many
“dead zone” pockets in the ocean that are devoid of oxygen, and as a result
life (Disaster in the Gulf, 2010). Oil spills of this nature are rare, but
smaller oil spills occur every day. The EPA estimates that there are 70 oil
Extracting fossil fuels can also have significant negative impacts on the planet. Mining for coal, especially strip mining, adversely impacts the area that is being mined. Typically, the material closest to the coal is acidic. Once mining is finished, the surrounding land will remain infertile unless special measures are taken to ensure that proper topsoil is used when and if the area is replanted (UCS, 2002). There are also considerable health risks associated with the individuals that mine for fossil fuels, as many of the area being mined are very dangerous and accidents are common. Also, miners are exposed to many toxic substances, which can lead to cancer, black lung, and death. Untapped sources of fossil fuels like methane hydrates and shale oil are also cause for some environmental concern as shale fired power plants emit considerable amounts of greenhouse gasses. In addition, extracting shale oils can negatively impact ground water resources.
Hoch, M. (2010, August 2). New Estimate Puts Gulf Oil Leak at 205 Million Gallons| The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/08/new-estimate-puts-oil-leak-at-49-million-barrels.html
MSNBC. (2010, June 18). Oil spill full of methane, adding new concerns - Disaster in the Gulf - msnbc.com. msnbc.com - Breaking news, science and tech news, world news, US news, local news- msnbc.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37778190
Roach, J. (2004, July 12). By 2050 Warming to Doom Million Species, Study Says. Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/01/0107_040107_extinction.html
Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response | Emergency Management | US EPA. (2011, January 27). US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content
Union of Concerned Scientists. (2002, October 29). The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels | Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS: Independent Science, Practical Solutions | Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/impacts/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html