The Dangers Of Fossil Fuels
(Even Before We Burn Them)
The process of unearthing underground oil, gas, and coal deposits is already taking an enormous toll on our landscapes and ecosystems. Take coal as an example. Coal is extracted either via underground mining or surface mining. Underground mining uses heavy machinery to cut coal from deep underground deposits, while surface mining basically scrapes and blasts entire forests and whole mountaintops to expose the coal underground. Needless to say, this will then fragment and destroy the wildlife habitat. For this reason, surface mining is especially destructive as it uproots and pollutes entire ecosystems.
The extraction of fossil fuels can cause pollution anywhere from our streams and rivers to our lakes and oceans. For instance, the process of coal mining washes acid runoff and dump vast quantities of unwanted rock and soil into our waters. In the case of oil extraction and transportation, oil spills and leaks can pollute drinking water sources and jeopardize entire freshwater or ocean ecosystems. In general, all these drilling, fracking, and mining operations generate enormous volumes of wastewater containing heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other pollutants.
Emissions of pollutants
Drilling wells and build pipeline transportation for the extraction of natural gas and oil produces methane. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; it is often released into the atmosphere or flared. Flaring the gas converts methane to carbon dioxide, which means we’re releasing additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The World Bank estimates that 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are flared annually worldwide, generating approximately 400 million tons of unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions. Active oil and gas wells, as well as transport and processing facilities are found to emit benzene (linked to childhood leukaemia and blood disorders) and formaldehyde (a cancer-causing chemical) as well.