How Fossil Fuels Shaped America and Its Environment
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the United States in mid 18th century, large amounts of fossil fuels were used to provide energy to the industries in the economy and ultimately influenced the wealth of numerous individuals in America. During the American industrial revolutions, fossil fuels were the ideal source of energy that drove the rapid growth of industries in America. Steam locomotives, that were the archetypal machine invention of the industrial revolution, utilized coal energy for the lack of sustainability while using charcoal and firewood energy. Since the beginnings of the industrialization in 19th century, petroleum gained massive prominence towards facilitating the progress of the industrial revolutions. The invention of the drilling technology that helped drill oil wells in the 19th century in America improved the industrial revolution.
Natural processes like anaerobic decomposition of the dead buried organisms form fossil. The most used fossil fuel is coal. It had been used for heating since when man lived in caves. In the 1700s, the English found coal was clean than the wood charcoal. Ever since the beginning of in industrial revolution in the 18th century, large quantities of fossil fuels have been used to deliver unprecedented affluence to many people and power economies. Because fossil fuels are organic matter made from remains of the fauna and flora subjected to deep pressures after many years, petroleum, natural gas, and coal form the major fossil fuels. Coal that forms done of the fossil fuels was discovered in the United States by explorers in 1673. The industrial revolution played an important role in the expansion of the use of coal. During the 1800s, industrial revolution spread to the United States and steam ships and the steam-powered railroad have formed the main methods of transportation as they used coal to cool the boilers. The use of fossil fuel has had several impacts to the economy and the environment of America. The following are the impact resulting from the use of fossil fuel in America.
Animals, plants, winds, and river falls were the main sources of energy in the colonial and the immediate post-colonial America. The potential of the countries that depended on organic energy to grow was significantly deterred by the scarce ability of the citizens to convert solar energy to use in the industries, the unpredictability of the windmills, and the lacking sustainability of the waterwheels among other organic energy sources. Such uncertainties and the need to ensure industrial growth during the era inspired the mineral-based economies that was began by Britain during the 18th century. The US successfully copied this initiative and surpassed the level initial world levels of exploiting fossil fuels in the industries.
Instead of focusing on the limited amounts of energy derived from the ecosystem, the fossil fuel using US accessed great supply of energy through the extraction of ancient deposits of energy from beneath the ground in the form of petroleum, coal, and many forms of natural gas. Americans were able to harness the power of the old fossils through the maximum exploitation of fossil fuels. Technologies and industries powered by coal and the other fossil fuels showed stamina, strength, and precision of the American citizens that carved a niche for the American labor force as the world’s productive population.
There are extensive discussions that trace American industrial revolution to the hydro-powered textile mills in New England despite the early decades of the 19th century beginning of industrial mining of coal in Pennsylvania and Virginia among other states. Towards the end of the 19th century, the coal industry experienced massive expansion throughout the mid west, the Appalachian Mountains, and to the Cascades Rockies. This rapid expansion made the United States the world’s largest coal producer. By 1910, 550 million tons of coal was mined by a population of 750,000 workers from most parts of the world. This production facilitated the development of the steamships and railroads that used coal and transported the fuel to other consumers across the United States. The major industries that used coal in America included the textile industry, the automobile industry, the steel industry, and the transport industry among many others. Coal was also used in the production of electricity through providing energy for the generators.
However, this industrial and economic success led to dire environmental consequences. American industrial success resulted to an unprecedented environmental disaster. In the rural areas, the machines used in burning coal including tractors, shovels, and dredges cultivated the ground and yielded unsustainable profits but left the ground bare and susceptible to soil erosion and other unsolved soil problems a century after the success of the revolution. The urban areas, on the other hand, became heavily polluted by the industries, railroads, and homes that used fossil fuels as the main source of energy. The increased mining of coal led to the destruction of land surfaces and resulted in the loss of arable lands in the US. The use of coal in the industries led massive pollution on water and air through the wastes and emissions that began the introduction of the carbon in the atmosphere.
The United States benefited from the fossil fuel production through tax paid by the oil drillers. Many decades after the success of fossil fuels in the industrialization of US, an approximate value of $4 billion was earned annually from the taxpayers to the producers of the fossil fuel. The government promoted fossil fuel production by subsidizing the tax code. This has supported the increase in the investment on the fossil fuel production. Fossil fuel was considered very risky, but with the advancing expertise and high value, the risk has been reduced. The new technology enhances the hydrocarbon production. The price of the fuel has been on rise, and this has influenced positively to the producing nations. America benefits from the high fuel prices that earn them a lot of income.
The use of natural gas has helped in eliminating emission of greenhouse gas. The reduction in the import cost of oil in the U.S means that a huge amount of capital is reserved for the domestic use. This presents the country with the resources for investment in the country. Several shortcomings come with increase in the energy. These include erosion of the environment resulting from the unfriendly sources of energy that pollutes the environment.
The impact of coal industry on the environment included issues that concerns land use, air pollution, water pollution, and waste management. All these results from coal mining, processing, and the resultant product utilized in the environment. Many solid wastes are also released in the environment including Flue Gas Desulfurization Sludge, which is composed of several minerals including arsenic that is harmful to the health of a person. Various gases emitted in the atmosphere that contribute to air pollution from fossil fuel includes nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide and particle matters which contribute to toxins in the environment, acid rain and smog. This results into various health problems like cerebro-vascular effects and respiratory dysfunctions.
Pollution from coal extraction led to emission of particulate matters including carbon monoxide. Approximately 60 percent of coal in the US was extracted from earth surfaces, and the other proportion comes from the subversive. Surface mining had great negative effect on the earth landscape. For example, the companies in the Appalachia usually expose the mountaintops in order to obtain the coal from its obscurity. The waste from the mining was disposed in the valley streams leading to pollution. Mining of coal also leads to deforestation where huge tracks of hardwood forest are destroyed like in the case of West Virginia. Underground mining is very harmful to inhabitant in the area since they are vulnerable to accidents and injuries from the mines and at most time, they suffer from chronic health problems.
The highest level of petroleum consumption was in the US after the conclusion of WW I; these pose various challenges to the surrounding. The great need of the use of oil in transportation makes it a challenge to stop using oil. The environmental degradation caused by oil spills, combustion, and extraction led to serious respiratory health problems. Petroleum products became the major cause of greenhouse gases, especially the heavy crude oil extracted from shale and tar sand, necessitate intensive methods that results to environmental degradation in contrast to the conventional oil. During this period, which was characterized by prosperity in the American society following the great increase in the use of fossil fuels as well as production, several other Americans still lived in abject poverty. The laborers in the industry received little pay for their labor thereby accumulating very little wealth. The gap between the poor and wealthy members of the society widened and oppression even increased . The increased consumption of the fossil fuels implied increased profits for the oil drillers and the property owners trading the commodity. This widened the social stratification between the poor and rich members of the society. On the political scene, the rich members of the society, who mostly owned the policymaking positions ensured that regulations enacted, sought to develop the industry in their favor. Some of the political aspects of fossils fuels in America include the persistent lobbying and advertising efforts of giant energy corporation to have legislations enacted in their favor.
There were arguments with the business community that raged the debate about the effects of fossil fuels on the environment. The fact remains that consumption of fossil fuel resulted into an increased emission of greenhouse gases and continuous global warming effect. Utilization of fossil fuel increases the amount of carbon resulting to emission of green house gases. Close attention is required in the fossil production aspect, and at times, the drilling of these conventional fuels requires more energy than the energy output result from their consumption. The use of fossil fuel, natural gas, coal and oil, had numerous environmental and economic benefits that prevail over the harmful effects they cause. There was the need for moral imperative in the utilization of the fossil fuel to maximize the production and limit on the risks resulting from its use.
The use of fossil fuels in America has been significant to its development since the 18th century. The fossils were used to drive machines in industries for production as well as locomotives such as the rail transport. At the onset of the discovery of the mines, the American populations were employed and most of them started working as either casual or formal employees. The introduction of fossil fuels, which are decompositions of flora and fauna, led to several impacts on the environment such as the economic, social, environmental, temporal, and political contexts. While it got people working, the property owners accumulated more wealth thereby oppressing the low class members of the society – the gap between the poor and the rich members of the society widened. Additionally, pollution form industries and emission of gases from the combustions of the fossils as well as their extractions from mining cites have led to devastating climatic conditions including global warming. The extraction cites also remained bare and susceptible to soil erosion and agriculturally unproductive. Gases emitted from the fossil fuels have also cause health hazards such as cerebro-vascular effects and respiratory dysfunctions to human beings. On the political scene, the continuous and persistent lobbying by the influential players in the market indicates how the influential figures and how they used their might to enact favorable legislations. Despite these negative aspects of fossil fuels, the American economy has benefited greatly from its prospects, which have accelerated economic growth. Fossil fuels are generally important to the economy. However, considering their environmental degrading effects, governments should seek alternative energy sources such as solar energy in order to help conserve the environment.
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