Oil and the Environment

Oil is used to create other products, harmful effects from these processes may occur, damaging the environment. These can include fracking, release of greenhouse gases, and chemical pollutants.  Improvements in technology continues to reduce the risk of environmental harm. The federal government also has programs that help regulate these problems, with the enforcement of environmental protection laws.

Oil spills can be devastating to the environment. While uncommon in the oil industry, they do happen. Oil spills occur through pipelines, trains, ships and other types of oil transportation accidents. Explosions due to the igniting of chemicals in the oil are also a risk. One of the most recent oil spills that has occurred happened in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident occurred in 2010, via the U.S. government and the oil rig Deep Horizon. The rig accident occurred in April and lasted 87 days ending in July. Unfortunately the effects of this incident continued. Eleven people were considered missing and never found. The rig, located about 40 miles from the coast of Louisiana, suffered a methane leak. The leak itself was not a problem but the gas that ignited inside the drilling riser, prompted the explosion.

The extent of the damage was due to the oil explosion itself, and the attempts of cleaning up crews. Because oil floats, most animals affect by the oil spills are the ones that tend to be surface dwelling. These types of animals include otters, birds, and sea turtles. Oil spills that move to the beach can affect animals like snails, clams and other land and sea animals. Animals are not the only living things affected, plants are as well. Coral reefs, kelp, and mangroves suffered massive damage.

Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to create dangerous scenarios. “Fracking” is the term used to describe when oil is squeezed from the ground. This procedure has allowed the United States to increase its production of oil. Fracking can produce large amounts of wastewater and air contaminates. Lead, methanol, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde are a few chemicals that are produced.