There is no doubt that the world’s energy demand today is far greater since the industrial revolution began in the early 1800’s. With most nations embracing industrialization in an unprecedented scale, the search for energy sources is extensive. Some nations even risk the possibility of war just to secure territories known to have fossil fuel deposits. Like what happened between China, Japan and their neighbors in their scuffle for the possession of Senkaku-Diaoyu, an island wherein geological surveys have revealed massive oil and gas reserves . America, unarguably the largest consumer of petroleum products in the world, has been known to defend its interest in the oil rich region of the Middle East. Its recent skirmish on the region is considered as an act to gain control of Middle East’s oil reserves . Obviously, the world needs a stable energy source to power its industries and still relies heavily on fossil fuel for its consumption. Even with the use of alternative energy sources such as geothermal, wind, hydro, solar and even nuclear energy source, the demand for fossil fuel is still enormous. As reported by ‘The Colorado River Commission of Nevada’, “During 1999, petroleum, natural gas and coal accounted for nearly 85% of world energy production” while alternative sources constitute for the remaining 15%. Fossil fuel takes hundreds perhaps thousands of years to form. There is little doubt, with the current demand, the world’s fossil fuel resources are rapidly depleting. The excessive exploration and consumption of fossil fuel would raise questions of whether is it safe to be highly dependent to fossil fuel. With the process of how it is extracted and converted to energy, its adverse effect to the environment must be carefully considered.
Interrelation of Climate Change to Fossil Fuel Consumption
The burning of fossil fuel as it is being converted to energy releases huge amount of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide on the other hand has greenhouse properties wherein it traps the heat from the sun thereby increasing incrementally the earth’s temperature. If it goes uncheck, the earth being a closed system would trap enough heat initiating a considerable change in climatic condition around the globe. There is a growing consensus among climate scientists about the role of carbon dioxide to the rapid change of the world’s climate. According to scientists, several million years ago, excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through numerous volcanic eruptions brought drastic changes to the earth’s climate which have been attributed to the demise of the dinosaurs . Today we are experiencing the same pattern of increased carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere that has brought the catastrophic event that made the dinosaurs extinct. In a study made by scientists in Greenland’s ice sheet, it was determined that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has substantially increased as compared to the pre-industrial level . It was determined using samples taken from air bubbles that were trapped on the ice sheet. In the past 200 years since the industrial revolution began in Europe, the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has risen dramatically. With the current rate of carbon dioxide emission, some scientists predicts that in 2056, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is enough to make drastic climate changes . Though some might say that this climate change might not be as severe as what happened during prehistoric times, the rising temperature of the earth would have its ripple effects. The melting of the snow caps in the polar regions would dramatically increase sea level. As a result, it would increase flooding in depressed regions especially areas near the coastline. On the other hand, the increased earth’s temperature would result in drought especially in hot and humid regions of the globe putting the global food stability at risk. The increased temperature in the oceans would fuel hurricanes and typhoons making them stronger than usual. These phenomenons are already observable in which lately, several strong typhoons have devastated areas near the Pacific Ocean. No doubt, the burning of fossil fuel as by product of human consumption has contributed significantly to the problems associated with climate change.
Effects of Fuel Exploration to Biodiversity and Ecological Balance
It is interesting to note that enormous fossil fuel deposits have been found on the most biodiverse regions of the planet (Butt, N., et al, 2013). Except for the arid regions in the Middle East, oil companies have extended their operations to include deep ocean explorations and in forested areas that were once undisturbed. During such operations, flora and fauna habitats are being destroyed disturbing the ecological balance of their natural environments. Offshore oil exploration has increased since the technology that would enable oil corporations to drill in deep ocean waters have been employed. Aside from destroying coral reefs, ocean floor and other natural ocean habitats, it has a notorious reputation of being accident prone resulting to oil spillage, covering large areas with dark and slick material of fossil fuel. One example is the ‘Ixtoc 1 Oil Spill’ which happened in 1979. According to Moss, “Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day for almost an entire year before workers were finally able to cap the well”. In 2010, a similar incident occurred in the Gulf of Mexico wherein an oil rig operated by BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded by accident killing 11 people and contaminating the gulf with an estimated 206 million gallons of fossil fuel. As an effect, the contaminated waters which spanned several hundred miles of the gulf’s shoreline killed numerous aquatic birds and marine life. Not only is fossil fuel exploration and extraction disadvantageous in terms of loss of natural habitats and the destruction of the ecosystem, it also has ripple effect in the spread of disease carrying agents or pathogens. As fossil fuel explorations in previously undisturbed environments increase, human contact with pathogens also increases. The reduction or loss of biodiversity has been attributed to the spread of parasitic microorganisms which might lead to the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases. The disturbance caused by man-made activities adversely alters the natural relationship of parasites and their hosts unknowingly forcing them to reside in human habitation which can cause contamination and perhaps a new form of illness.
Contamination of Water Resources
Fossil fuel exploration and extraction increases the possibility of contamination of water resources such as underground aquifers and the ground water table. According to Gordalla et al., drilling operations in search of fossil fuel especially in Germany use a procedure known as hydraulic fracturing wherein underground rocks that serve as an impermeable container of underground water are being fractured. This process puts the ground water table at risk of contamination from contaminants associated with fossil fuel extraction such as methane and other natural gas and liquids that are hazardous to human health. In such case, water quality would be compromised as well as decreases the amount of water that can be used for safe human consumption.
There is indeed a direct relationship between fossil fuel exploration and environmental disturbances in terms of climate change, biodiversity and pollution. We could not ignore that these explorations could put human existence at risk. Despite this fact, it is still unsure whether a time will come when the world is ready to abandon its demand for fossil fuel. With the world still relying heavily on fossil fuel as its energy source, exploration and extraction activities will continue and even increase as most nations are pushing on their industrial ambitions. It is recommended that government efforts should be more focused on finding ways to harness clean energy sources and gradually decrease its dependence on fossil fuel consumption. Unless we act now, there is a posibility that all future efforts would be too late that even our industries and scientific progress could not save us.
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