We all know how important oil is to keep powering our modern, complex world, but extracting oil comes with a huge price. This post will look at some of the ways our pursuit of oil has damaged our planet, as well as some ways we can solve this huge problem.
Why is Oil So Important to Us?
Before we take a look at how oil affects our planet, let’s think about why oil is so important to us in the first place.
Oil impacts all aspects of life including politics, culture and economics. It is a black liquid that can be found in the ground, either on its own or mixed with other natural resources. It is often used as an energy source because it burns easily and makes heat.
The two main types of oil are petroleum and crude oil. Crude oil is made up of mostly hydrocarbons, whereas petroleum contains more sulfur-containing compounds like hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
Oil isn’t just used for fuel though. Is also very useful in many other industries. One of these industries includes soap and detergent manufacturing which utilizes oil because it’s an excellent cleansing agent. The reason for this is because oil has a lower level of reactivity than water so it doesn’t dissolve substances easily which could cause skin irritation when applied to the skin.
Oil also helps make soap bubbles last longer and provides lubrication on surfaces like glass or metal where water would leave them too slick to touch without adding more oils or waxes. Finally, one surprising use for petroleum is its use in cosmetics such as lipstick or deodorant.
The Problem With Oil
So it is clear to see that oil is important to us and has many uses, but why is it so bad for our planet?
The first step in the process of extracting oil is to drill into the ground. A hole is drilled deep into the earth, and then a steel pipe (called casing) is inserted through it to prevent any water from entering while drilling continues.
Once drilling has reached its target depth, a mixture of water and sand (known as “drilling mud”) is pumped down the well at high pressure to clear out any loose sediment or debris inside it.
This mixture contains chemicals that are harmful to both humans and animals such as benzene, lead compounds, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and many more substances.
Worryingly, some of these substances can be carcinogenic or mutagenic – meaning they cause cancer-causing mutations in cells. These chemicals can contaminate groundwater supplies near extraction sites with toxic levels of heavy metals like arsenic or mercury.
So the process of drilling for oil is nasty, but it doesn’t end there.
The huge amount of machinery and vehicles involved in drilling for oil, clearing drill sites and transporting oil all take their toll on our planet too.
Then there is the habit loss and damage to wildlife that comes from clearing oil drill sites. Habitats have been so damaged from human actions that many species have been severely affected. Bats are one such example. Bat habits have been so badly affected that they are now are protected species in the UK and bat surveys are required before any activity is undertaken that could damage their habitats.
Oil spills are detrimental to the environment and have a lasting impact on land, water, and air. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 is one of the most well-known environmental disasters due to its severity. These types of accidents happen all too often because some oil exploration occurs at depths that humans can’t reach from above ground.
Oil spills occur when there is an accidental release or leak from an offshore drilling rig, pipeline, tanker ship, or underground storage tank. They have a negative effect on marine life as they kill fish eggs and larvae while causing deformities in coral reefs and seagrass beds which provide food for many species of animals including sea turtles, dugongs, and manatees. Oil also damages plant life by killing insects like bees.
So we know that oil can devastate plants and animals, but it also poses a threat to human life too because our use of oil is one of the leading causes of global warming.
One way that oil contributes to global warming is when it is used in producing electricity. Oil produces approximately 24% of all electricity in the United States alone, which has an environmental impact on our planet’s climate change. When you burn coal or natural gas, you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere but when you use oil, not only do you release carbon dioxide but also sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides as well as other pollutants such as mercury.
What Can We do to Help?
In order to shake our addiction to oil, governments must act quickly and pursue other potential solutions for our energy demands such as solar panels, nuclear power plants, wind turbines, and biodiesel fuel cells.
On a personal level, we can all help by minimizing waste, recycling, traveling less, and consuming less but without major action by the world’s biggest polluters, our planet will remain in a crisis.
Here at batsurveys.co.uk, we aim to play our small part by protecting the habitats of bats during planning and development projects.
If you have a project in need of a bat survey, get in touch today for a free quote and we’ll help you get planning permission whilst adhering to the important legislation put in place to protect these amazing species.