Environmental Conservation – Cheaper Oil Does Not Mean Cleaner Air or Water

Environmental Conservation has been associated with oil use and energy independence  for the United States.  The demand for oil is not decreasing but the supply of it has been boosted by new technology that allows oil companies to extract it in new ways such as “fracking” that lets drilling rigs drill horizontally underground and pump up previously unavailable oil.  This is great for our wallets and economy since we will have more money to pay our bills and spend less at the pump. The 40% drop in the price of a barrel of oil this past year makes me concerned about our commitment or lack of commitment to minimizing our use of fossil fuels and trying to make our earth cleaner and less susceptible to dirty air, polluted drinking water and climate change.

The U.S. emits about 5 Billion Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide annually, into our atmosphere, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, mainly from electricity production from utilities and auto emissions.  The problem with the demand for oil and carbon dioxide emissions lies in large developing countries like China, India and Brazil putting a large number a new cars on the road each year. The U.S. has 1.3 people per car in this country while China has 6.75 people for each car in their country. The rise in China’s, India’s and Brazil’s middle class as well as in other developing country’s middle classes will put millions of new oil consuming cars on the road. It is estimated that we will see over 2 Billion cars on the road worldwide before the year 2050, up from just over 1 Billion cars on the road today. That increase would require oil companies to produce 120 million barrels of oil per day to meet demand, over the 87 million barrels produced today.

The danger to our water supplies also comes from producing more oil. Fracking requires oil wells to be pumped full of water and chemicals to force more oil up to the surface. These chemicals can contaminate drinking water supplies which lie near oil deposits. Some towns in the U.S. and countries outside of the U.S. have banned the use of fracking in order to safeguard their drinking water supplies.

I believe the answer to our energy needs for both electrical generation and automotive use should come much more from renewable sources. Today’s hybrid and electrical cars only amount to 3% of the total cars sold in the U.S. today. The memory of $4 per gallon gas makes me question why everyone isn’t driving a hybrid vehicle. The number of solar and wind farms only produce a very small amount of the electricity used in the U.S. today. The argument against renewable energy is that it is still not price competitive with using oil and coal supplies

I am in favor of producing energy as cheaply as possible but I am more in favor of taking a long term view of the sustainability of our energy resource consumption and the health of the planet. We need to get away from oil, natural gas and coal and produce clean renewable energy. The sun, wind, and hydroelectric energy resources we have are in much bigger supply than fossil fuels and they do not cause global warming or pollute the atmosphere. We shouldn’t take our eye off the ball after all the discussions and warnings we have had about climate change and we should keep moving towards a more healthy mix of energy supplies even while oil is getting cheaper.

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