About37% of the populations in the US use coal as a major source of energywhen it comes to their household’s consumption. 27% of the entirepopulation opts to use natural gases nuclear energy is used byapproximately 19% of the population while the renewable sourcesaccount for 12% of the population which is a very small segment ofthe entire population. This is an illustration that a majority of theAmericans do not comprehend the significance of using renewable andenvironmental friendly sources of energy in the market. It is thistrend which has seen the rising costs of oil products in the worldand the reliance on petroleum related products which puts the worldon unstable position with the increasing crises in the Middle East(Cho, Kwon and Lee, 6). Below is an analysis of oil and gas mining inthe US and their associated environmental consequences.
FOSSILFUELS USE IN THE US
Figure1: US oil production and Import
Fossilfuels contain a large amount of carbon that enables them to producehuge amounts of energy. This carbon is formed as a result ofdecomposition of living organisms that lived in a million years ago.Oil and natural gas are as a result of biological matter that settleson seafloor where hydrocarbons like methane and other gases becometrapped in rocks. Petroleum results from small packets of liquid orgas trapped between rocks deep underground. If this petroleum isextracted it is used to make gasoline and other petrochemicals (You,89).
Thereis an increasing trend in the use of fossil fuels in the US thefigure above is an illustration of the increasing demand of fossilfuels in the country. For the first time since 1995, the US has beenable to produce more fossil fuels than it imports. This portrays thatthere is a continued demand for the fossil fuels in the country overthe period. Fossil energy sources include oil, coal and natural gaswhich are normally termed as the non-renewable sources of energy thatwere formed during the prehistoric periods. Fossil fuels formed fromdifferent combination of organic matters buried deep in the groundwhere temperature and pressure favored their formation (Cho, Kwon andLee, 10).
Inthe 21stcentury, numerous industries have ventured into the business ofenergy production. Most of these industries prefer to drill and minefossil fuels which are then burnt to produce electricity or refinedto produce fuel used in locomotives across the globe. For the pasttwo decades these energy sources have led to the degradation of theozone layer hence triggering other environmental hazards. Despite allthese drawbacks most people have clung to their use since they offera cheaper means of energy production and are easily accessible asopposed to other forms of energy sources like nuclear energy(Rainforestfoundation.org, 1).
TheUS energy department itself has kept a vast reserve of fossil fuelstermed as emergency deposits in underground tanks across the country.These reserves are used to ensure a responsible maintenance anddevelopment of oil and gas resources in the US and enable thegovernment to execute regulatory measures. This illustrates that thepopularity of these energy source is here to stay and most peoplewill probably use it for the rest of their lives despite the changingconditions. To add on to the popularity and redundancy of most peopleto change from the use of fossil fuels, the government has undertakenan initiative to develop technologies that will enable a reduction ofcarbon emission into the atmosphere and ensure that America attainsclean energy future (Robinson, 45).
ENVIRONMENTALIMPACTS OF MINING OIL AND GAS IN US
Someof the activities that may cause environmental impacts in oil and gasmining include ground clearing, vehicular and pedestrian traffic,drilling, construction and installation of devices and wastemanagement. Just like oil and gas exploration, mining of thesubstances impacts negatively on the environment, however, mining hasan intense impact on the environment. Typical activities duringdrilling and development of oil and gas wells include removal ofvegetation, ground clearing, drilling, grading, vehicular andpedestrian traffic and waste management coupled up with constructionof facilities (Rainforestfoundation.org, 1). Some of the negativeimpacts associated with oil and gas mining can be described asbelow:-
Primarysources of noise pollution during mining include the heavy presenceof machineries and equipment’s. Mining of oil and gas requiresutilization of complex machines and diesel engines that would handlethe excavation work. Other sources of noise pollution in oil and gasmining include blasting and vehicular traffic. Noise from drillinghas been estimated to be above 55 dBA at a distance of 1,800 feet(549 m) to about 3,500 feet from the well. Drilling noise couldpersist for a long time depending on the depth of the formation. Alsothose exploratory wells that graduate to become production wells willcontinue to generate noise as long as they are in use(Rainforestfoundation.org, 1).
Oiland gas mining are accompanied by emissions that may harm theenvironment and proofs detrimental to human lives. Diesel emissionfrom large construction machineries and equipment makes a huge junkof the emissions. Small amounts of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxidesand particulates from blasting activities encompass a huge portion ofthe dust experienced in mining zones in the US. Dust also emanatesfrom sources such as disturbing and moving soils, mixing of concreteand drilling. In windless whether odors may be detected from adistance, this means that mining of these minerals initiates airpollution (Rainforestfoundation.org, 1). Excessive dust may lead todust pneumonia for animals and plants due to their loss ofpalatability.
Figure2:Mining has an effect on the quality of air
Impactsto ecological resources would be proportional to the amount ofdisturbance in the surface and the habitat fragmentation. Normallyduring the mining process vegetation and top soil cover would beremoved for the development of well pads access roads and otherfacilities that may be used during the drilling process. This leadsto loss of wildlife, their habitat and plant destruction. The momentthe top vegetative layer is removed there are higher probability ofsoil erosion and paving way for the introduction of noxious weeds.Indirect destruction of vegetation would lead to increased dustspread and spread of invasive noxious weeds. Marine life is alsonegatively impacted by mining of oil and gas in the US. For instancefish could suffocate from spills and leaks they may also suffocatefrom an accumulation of dust in water that forms a layer on thesurface of water (Rainforestfoundation.org, 1).
Miningis a negative aspect associated with mining of oil and gas in the US.It’s very dangerous to mine these minerals since they requiresophisticated equipment’s. However, the main problem is that thismining exercise strips and destroys the landscape of the mining zonesin the country. Gaping holes and destroyed terrains is what is leftbehind after mining has taken place. Often times it leads tolandslides in some areas and accidents when the holes are left openwithout filling or any form of protection from innocent citizens andanimals that may be using those routes (Robinson, 78).
Oilcompanies normally pump oil out of the ground by using drillingrigs andwells that access the oil reserves in the ground. Oil spreads justlike water does on a sponge throughout the rock layers instead of itexisting as a giant block of liquid in the ground. This arrangementportends that in order to pump out all the oil drillers must extendor on some occasions relocate the wells after emptying the immediatelocations (You, 100). Oil drilling rigs set a platform in the oceanto access the deep sediments of oil in an ocean floor this meansthat in order to become successful more technically complexequipment’s must be employed to access the deep waters of theocean.
Thefigure above depicts the structure of a typical drilling architecturethat is used by many companies. This drilling mechanism brings a hugedisruption to the environment, constant drilling from the samelocation would lead to a disruption of the underground plates causingquakes and landslides as the ground sinks below the extracted points.This in turn may cause deaths and loss of property. As can be seenfrom the diagram the there is a trend in companies drilling deeperand deeper just to get the precious commodity(Teeic.indianaffairs.gov, 1). However, this has huge negative impacton the balancing of particles as deep holes in the ground are leftunfilled.
Spillsand leaks of chemicals, wastewater and oil and gas are the mostcommon forms of soil and water pollution in the US especially aroundthose areas near well sites. Spills may occur during transportation,handling, use and storage. Often time’s trucks can roll, storagetanks could leak and pipes that transport the fuels burst. Forinstance, in a case near a well site in Taranaki, equipment failurelead to oil collecting in a flare pit leach into a tile drain througha manhole into a stream. There are other numerous cases where oilleaks and gas have clogged up rivers and destroying crops in farmsnearby. Another instance of spills and leaks is a 1999 case wherebyafter a heavy rain flooded an exploratory well site near Wairoa andappeared to sediment and contaminate a nearby spring that was asource of water for seven households and thousands of livestock inthe area (Cho, Kwon & Lee, 23). This is just a few of some of theinstances that have caused problems to the environment.
Figure3:Clean Up of contaminated soil by a leak in a petroleum pipe in amining zone in the US
Manymining companies in the US have adopted poor methods of wastedisposal after engaging in mining activities. Oil and gas activitiesgenerate huge piles of wastes, during mining tones of rocks are dugout and large volumes of water discharged from the wells with oil andgas. The water coming from deep within the earth encompasses numeroushydrocarbons, salts and heavy metals that are harmful to theenvironment (Cho, Kwon & Lee, 45). Some wastes from the oil andgas may be relatively harmless but some are contaminated and shouldbe disposed appropriately to avoid environmental pollution andpotential bioaccumulation in plants and animals. Radioactivematerials have been found to be present in a huge segment of wastesfrom the ground. Radioactive materials are very dangerous to bothhuman and plant lives as they impair functionalities of the mainprocesses in the body (Gas? 1).
MITIGATIONAPPROACHES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENT
Thegovernment has been on the front line in trying to encourage thecitizens to adopt cleaner forms of energy like Solar and wind energysystems. This will help reduce pressure from the non-renewablesources of energy in the county that have brought more harm than goodin the society. US government in conjunction with UNEP has tried toadopt a green initiative campaign that is geared towards establishinga society that relies on better forms of energy that offer a cleanenvironment (Gas? 1). The government has also come up with approachesto ensure proper disposal of wastes during mining. Some of thetechniques adopted by companies in the mining sector include deepwell injection and land farming and mix bury cover. Further thegovernment has enacted laws that govern the mining industry. This isan aim to control the sector and allow the environment time torejuvenate after incurring huge implications from mining. Thosecompanies that do not adhere to the stipulated frameworks are finedand risk losing their licenses (Teeic.indianaffairs.gov, 1).
Adoptionof renewable sources of energy will benefit biological organismswhich have suffered from accumulation of fossil fuels offer a longtime. For instance, mercury accumulates in biological organisms andis recycled through the food chain since it cannot be broken down. Shifting to renewable sources is not an easy task since presentlyfossil fuels stand out to occupy a large portion of all activities inthe world (Teeic.indianaffairs.gov, 1). It is very important for allthe communities and countries to initiate approaches that will enableadoption and utilization of cleaner sources of energy. The mainreason why we should all shift to renewable sources of energy isbecause they offer electricity with fewer environmental issuesattached. A healthy environment comes from adoption of initiativesfrom all the people in the world.
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