The perils of extracting petroleum and fossil fuels are well documented. Clearly, drilling in the arctic or offshore is difficult, expensive and dangerous. A spill is hard to contain and virtually impossible to clean up. Spills from 20 years ago like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska to recent ones caused by British Petroleum in the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are testament to their devastating and long lasting effects. Greenpeace has “… identified oil drilling in Arctic waters as one of the biggest climate threats being ignored by the world’s governments.”
Every year, according to Greenpeace, about 30 million barrels of oil products leak from wells and pipelines in Russia. An estimated four million barrels of that, roughly the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, flows straight into the Arctic Ocean through tributaries. !
Fracking is also generating concerns. The health impacts of these extreme extractions become apparent as more and more people are directly affected by them. The Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air has reported thousands of cases of health related problems in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. These include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, mouth ulcers, rashes, blisters, lesions, respiratory distress and more.
Gas and oil companies have even resorted to paying people affected by their drilling to not speak out about their health issues.
A 2018 report details how fracking is contaminating air and water and affecting the health of millions of Americans.
But fortunately, several states have recognized these problems and have either banned fracking like New York, or are considering it like Florida. And when a state won’t ban it, communities in California, Ohio and Texas are taking action on their own.
Hopefully companies will soon realize that it is too expensive and environmentally dangerous to extract fossil fuels. Dr Jeremy Leggett, who is an oil consultant, states that:
The industry is facing plunging commodity prices and soaring costs at risky projects in the Arctic, deepwater Brazil and elsewhere.”
Oil companies are also realising it is no longer morally defensible to ignore the consequences of climate change.
But what will replace the energy that fossil fuels supply to support economies around the world?
The answer is clearly renewables.
Solar, wind, hydro and geothermal are already supplying significant amounts of electricity to many countries around the world. Energy requirements that cannot be met by these can be satisfied by renewable fuels based on municipal waste and energy crops. These fuels can be used to power diesel engines for long hauls and for heating and cooking. All without risking the environment and future generations.