Oil and gas sites pollute the environment, hurting wildlife, people, and nature. If you live close to a rig or processing plant, the view is depressing. Ventilating the indoors brings more toxic particles into the house. No windows will protect you from contaminated water. You come in contact with harmful chemicals every day.
Immune defenses inevitably decline, but this is only one dimension of the damage. What should companies do to minimize the impact? Here are the key issues to resolve on a global scale.
- Polluted Air and Water
The industry does not do enough to keep the air and water clean. People who live close to oil and gas-producing facilities are exposed to contaminants daily. This causes a range of respiratory problems and other health issues.
Across the US alone, there are 1.3 million such locations. Wells and processing plants are key contributors to air pollution. When fossil fuels burn, talk to gases are released. According to the UN, polluted air is one of the biggest killers.
Fracking is one of the dirtiest methods of oil production. In the process, chemicals get into drinking water, causing birth defects, liver damage, and cancer in the local population. Wastewater leaks to lagoons, ponds, and aquifers underground. Clearly, these methods must be improved.
- Harmful Spills
Producers must take serious measures to prevent spills. They kill wildlife. One of the most famous accidents happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Back then, almost 70,000 square miles of sea surface were contaminated, with around 1 million seabirds, 5,000 marine mammals, and 1,000 sea turtles killed.
Minor spills also cause damage. When oil is being extracted onshore, lubrication inside the well is ensured through the injection of drilling fluids. Instead of being captured underground, they are often splashed around the site.
Unfortunately, the frequency of spills has been rising. In 2018, over 2,800 cases were registered in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Animals come in direct contact with harmful fluids or inhale and ingest the chemicals. These damage their internal organs, causing cancer, reproductive failure, and suppression of the immune system.
- Destruction of Wildlife
Companies prioritize profits over wildlife habitats. Birds find it hard to communicate because of loud noises, vehicles, and human movement. These operations also disrupt nesting and breeding. Besides, the infrastructure also gets in the way, fragmenting natural habitats for many animals. For example, the pronghorn antelope and mule deer in Wyoming are both under threat.
- Climate Change
Today, scientists are developing technologies to capture CO2, but we are yet to see practical results. The burning of fossil fuels releases harmful greenhouse emissions into the air, which trap heat from the sun and cause the temperature to rise. This results in prolonged wildfires, and bigger severity of hurricanes and heatwaves.
Carbon dioxide is generated by burning released by everything from vehicles to production plans. Meanwhile, fracking releases methane into the atmosphere. Overall, this industry has the dirtiest emissions.
- Ruining of Landscapes
Infrastructure for oil and gas production damages the land. The creation of roads, facilities, and well pads requires the operation of bulky equipment. Pristine wilderness and vegetation are destroyed, and there is no way to reverse this harm.
After these sites are abandoned, recovery will take hundreds of years. As a result of erosion, flooding and landslides become more frequent. The ground surface is destroyed, and wildlife habitats are fragmented.
- Less Tourism
Visitors are also put off by oil and gas production infrastructure. Families on vacation, hikers, hunters, and birders all go into the wilderness — public lands and national parks — to experience the pristine beauty of nature. They do not expect constant noise, busy roads, and oil tanks. As a result, local communities suffer as tourism declines.
- Light Pollution
Lights on production sites are so intense they can be seen from space. The main source of energy is the flaring of gas and storage sites. For bees, this is extremely dangerous. The light disrupts their pollination patterns. They cannot sleep, feed and reproduce normally. As a result, plants dwindle
In recent years, the oil industry has seen a barrage of lawsuits. Its business is strongly associated with climate change. Natural habitats and beautiful landscapes vanish, while air and water pollution is detrimental to humans and animals. Clearly, something needs to change, as the damage is irreversible.