The Oil Industry’s Impact on the Environment and Road Accidents

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The catastrophic British Petroleum (BP) oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, devastated the environment unlike any oil spill before it, disrupting and disabling commerce, killing countless animals, and polluting vast amounts of ocean water. Ever since that day, Americans have been wary of the oil industry and its impact on the environment, realizing that a persistent and watchful eye must be dedicated to keeping the activities of the oil industry in check. The world’s oil addiction will continue to degrade the environment until alternative fuel sources are available.

Alarming Facts and Figures

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Image by ideum via Flickr

The oil industry is responsible for thousands upon thousands of fires, explosions, leaks, and other environmental hazards over the last decade. Only a fraction of these are accounted for in the news, and more often than not, the companies end up paying virtually nothing for their environmental impact. Dozens of human and animal lives have been lost at the hands of the oil industry indirectly from environmental degradation. Although the BP oil spill is the most well-known oil spill in the history of the United States, there have been thousands of lesser oil spills. 90 companies worldwide produce more than 60 percent of the manmade emissions polluting the planet, according to an article published by the Guardian. Chevron alone accounts for nearly 4 percent of world emissions.

The Oil Industry’s Impact on Roadways

Roadways in Texas, where the oil industry thrives, have been slowly crumbling since the 2009 oil boom. It has been documented that large trucks traverse this part of Texas as much as 2,000 times in a three-day period. Traffic accidents and tanker spills have increased exponentially in the time since the boom, and the oil industry has done little to help repair west Texas’s declining infrastructure.

In 2009, 301 people died in truck accidents, according to the Tracey&Fox law firm; that number rose to 452 in 2013. The number of people involved in traffic accidents with commercial vehicles has risen steadily since the oil boom, and even more concerning is the number of injuries suffered by innocent citizens and workers because of faulty infrastructure. Recently, in an extreme example, a father and son were killed due to a 13-foot pothole.

Which Company Has the Most Severe Impact?

Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, British Petroleum, and Gazprom are the top five companies contributing to global emissions. Chevron was fined approximately $9 million for polluting Ecuador, and by extension the Amazonian rivers and rainforests. Exxon was responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, another famous oil spill in U.S. history, which spilled 11 million gallons of oil into the ocean and took the lives of a quarter million animals. The company didn’t publicly accept climate change until 2014.

British Petroleum has been fined more than $1 billion for a variety of oil spills and other acts of environmental degradation; they have the worst safety track record of any oil company in the world. The top extractor of natural gas, Gazprom, also contributes to global submissions substantially. The company drilled illegally in the Arctic and accounts for 2.2 percent of global emissions.

A Constant Threat

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Image by marinephotobank via Flickr

Oil refineries, dredging, and fracking compounds consistently harm the environment. Even a well-operated, regulated refinery is going to have negative effects on the environment. That’s the trade-off humans are forced to live with to live as they do. Onshore compounds do even more damage than offshore ones, although the potential for a crisis can be much higher when taken offshore. Emissions from refineries already pollute the air with a variety of unwanted chemicals like benzene and phenol, which are carcinogens and highly toxic to humans. The need for gasoline is simply too strong, and this takes a heavy toll on the health of the Earth.

The oil industry and environment will never live in perfect harmony. Refining oil requires that we substitute the environment for our energy needs, but the damage by extension is far too great to consider refining oil a sustainable act.