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WHAT'S UP WITH OIL?

Oil runs your cars and heats your homes. Refined oil to petroleum and diesel are used by millions of people for automobiles. Also, oil is used to make many products including ammonia, Aspirin, and other medicines. It is used for a variety of things which include maintaining automobiles, house cooking, airplane travel, and creating plastics just to name a few. Without this precious resource, we would not be as technologically advanced or developed as we are today. It is our #1 energy source as it supplies ~39% of the world's demand. Oil is quickly becoming scarce as production will peak and begin to decline in future years. The largest oil deposits in the world are located coincidentally in also the most diverse areas such as the Arctic and Virunga National Park. Large scale infrastructures must be built in order to extract and develop oil, which is costly and negatively affects the environment. These sensitive areas are also prone to increased shipping. The noise level in the sea rises which messes up the communication pathways for many species and the potential for collisions with marine mammals, especially whales increase. Not are we only putting the aquatic life at risk, but we pollute the open waters and risk oil spills from collisions that can damage the entire body of water.



We continue to over consume oil because there are no other resource that is as sustainable. We have yet to find a cheaper alternative that is equally as efficient, stable, and easily transported world wide as oil. However, this causes many disputes and fighting all over the world. If we are not careful in securing and developing the resource, whole ecosystems and economies will be lost. The resource is in such demand that many countries have been attempting to claim and take over lands that are rich with oil. This fight is most prevalent in international waters as the oil is fair game to all countries. An excellent example of the disaster that oil can cause in water is the BP Deepwater Horizon platform which exploded spilling 4 million barrels (170 million gallons) of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest spill in history on April 20, 2010 caused thousands of individuals, businesses, and marine life to lose their homes.



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IMPACTS

  • Extraction of oil disrupts migratory pathways and habitat destruction
  • Oils spills can occur from blowouts, pipeline leaks, shipping accidents
  • No proven clean up for oil spills on ice in Arctic
  • Tons of dangerous atmospheric pollutants
  • Discharge of dangerous chemicals in the water will destroy water quality and drinking water
  • Clean air and water for animals are degraded (required to survive)
  • Livelihoods of Indigenous people's economies in surrounding area decreases with oil spills as they are unable to catch fish, etc.
  • Noise pollution from oil drilling can cause injuries, confusion, or even death to animals
  • Sea mammals unable to communicate underwater because seismic noises from extraction companies is interrupting and deafening
  • Birds feathers are trapped together with oil and unable to fly, end up drowning or they become easy prey
  • Biodiversity can no longer feed due to the contamination of their environment
  • Ingestion of oil causes sicknesses and diseases
  • Wildlife higher in the food chain poisoned as toxins bioaccumulate
  • Decline in recreation of commercial fishing and water sports

TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

We cannot completely stop using oil as we have grown so dependent on it, but we can think of ways to sustain the resource to last longer and and how to safely clean oil spills. The safe and responsible development of oil projects is stressed to ensure we do not harm life that is already residing in oceans to be affected. It is important we protect sensitive areas from development that affect both the wildlife and indigenous people. By identifying these areas, we can protect and prevent future projects from occurring in the surrounded locations. This is done with a tool called Rapid Assessment of Circum-Arctic Ecosystem Resilience, or RACER for short. Advocating for improved standards to the clean up of spills and tighter regulations is more safer and time efficient. Skimming is a popular method that involves that contains the oil with fine filtering systems on top of the water by skimming over it. Dispersants can also be used to break the oil through biological agents. These fertilizing agents promotes the bacteria in the water so oil is able to disperse and naturally break down.


Biofuels are a look into the future and is a climate-friendly resource. If we are able to cultivate mass crop production, it is possible for it to enter the transportation market and rival oil. Flexfuel vehicles are being produce in the US to run on ethanol which can be produced from cor, sugar, and fibrous plants (sweet grass). The best part of ethanol is it will only be sold for 51 cent/gallon. Biofuels are also beneficial to climate change, so not will we only be substituting petroleum, but saving the environment at the same time. Combustion does not occur with biofuels, instead they are produced in a closed carbon cycle which will ultimately reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


Conservation of energy is the only way we can sustain oil. With prices rising, it is only a matter of time before it becomes too expensive to purchase. It is important we minimize the amount of fuel we waste because the saving we make with greater efficiency is a big difference. If each every family can change the types of car they use to more energy efficient vehicles that do not require as much fuel, millions of gallons of oil will be reserved.



Go Beyond Oil (Greenpeace UK Campaign)

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