Oil is a nonrenewable energy source that has serious environmental issues, moderate economic issues, and serious geographic issues. Its primary uses are for electricity, heating, industry, and transportation. Oil is America’s primary energy source.
Over periods of millions of years, the remains of water diatoms became covered by sheets of sand and silt. As the layers kept on piling over each other, pressure and heat increased and transformed the remains into petroleum, crude oil. Such oil is frequently found in reservoirs. Petroleum comes from Greek word ‘petra’, which means rock, and the Latin word ‘oleum’, meaning ‘oil’. If a site looks like it will be prolific in producing oil, after scientists examine rock samples, a ‘derek’ will be built , and the drilling will commence. As a result, oil reaches the surface by being pumped through piping.
Oil Impact on Environment
Burning Petroleum can produce hazardous emissions and byproducts. These are some of the examples of harmful products that petroleum gives off.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) – greenhouse gas
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) – causes acid rain–this could be harmful to animals and plants that are aquatic. This also could worsen or cause respirator illnesses and heart diseases
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) – contributes to ground-level ozone, which damages and aggravates the lungs.
- Particulate Matter (PM) – contributes to Asthma and chronic bronchitis
- Other various air toxins: benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 1,2-butadiene, carbon monoxide (CO), and lead.
Offshore Oil and Drilling
- Deep-Sea oil drilling causes many more disasters than benefits. Although a great supply of oil is located on the ocean surface, spills frequently happen and some of them could greatly damage the environment.
- There is a 200 mile area after the U.S. coastline called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In the EEZ the sandy ocean floor extends into the ocean onto a continental shelf. This shelf eventually descends to a steep drop which is called the continental slope up to 400 kilometers wide and 200 meters deep! This land is controlled by the federal government.
- On April 20, 2010 an explosion and fire occurred on a British Petroleum (BP) offshore drilling rig. This had been a tentative well in the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. This tragic accident caused the deaths of crewmen and it left as much as 200 millions of gallons of oil gushing into the ocean for many months. This oil spill is 20 times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989, which was also a big environmental disaster. This BP oil spill caused critical damage to sea animals as well as fishery businesses in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, many birds, dolphins, and fish died from the oil.
In 2008, crude oil prices for the first time were higher than $100 a barrel and gas prices went as high as $4 a gallon. In 2006, the world has a 35% rate of oil consumption. In 2007 the US energy consumption uses for petroleum were 70%: transportation, 24%: industrial, 5%: residential and commercial, and 2%: electric power. Eventually oil prices will be so expensive that they will be impracticable and other sources such as renewable power will be used.
- The United States Minerals Management Service (MMS) rents the EEZ to outside businesses and producers. These businesses give the MMS a certain amount of royalties on all of the minerals and petroleum they extract from the ocean floor.
GEOGRAPHICAL & POLITICAL NOW
- Crude oil is harvested in 31 US states and U.S. coastal waters. Since 2009, 50% of crude oil was produced from five states including Texas (21%), Alaska (12%), California (11%), North Dakota (4%), and Louisiana (3.5%).
About 33.3 % of U.S. crude oil came from offshore state wells and federal waters from the Gulf of Mexico. Oil production has typically been decreasing yearly since its peak in 1970. However, it increased by 7% from 2008 to 2009 due to an increase in production by 35% in federals waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to 1950, oil production increased by 18% in 2009. In the 1950’s and 1960’s America did not have to import oil in great quantities and it was reasonably inexpensive.
- America gets imported oil from countries and regions that carry aggressive threats or instability such as Venezuela, the Middle East or Russia, Africa, and Central Asia. Even though America cannot sustain itself with its own crude oil anymore, it still remains on petroleum for 40 percent of its total energy needs, according to the US Department of Energy. Surprisingly this reliance on oil is far greater than any other developed country– Japan, France, Germany. Most US reserves over the years have been consumed or soon will be. This dependence builds developing clashes and competition between the US an other oil purchasers such as China
- Americans definitely want to see a considerable decrease on the US dependence on imported oil. An increase in renewable energy sources would be ideal as well.
If we stop relying on oil, other sources which are more expensive will have to be used, and energy prices will go up, leading to another recession. We need alternate energy sources to be cheaper, and need to increase research on alternate and cheaper energy sources.