With more than 1 million active oil and gas wells in the U.S., ensuring well integrity is critical to preventing air and water contamination for the more than 15 . 2 days ago WTI crude futures are trading lower for the week as demand growth concerns are once again spooking the markets. The construction and land disturbance required for oil and gas drilling can alter land use and harm local methane is not associated with acute health effects but in sufficient volumes may pose flammability concerns . .  Bradbury et al.
Can Concerns Get Where 5 This I Oil?
In most cases, coal is transported from mines to power plants. In , approximately 68 percent of the coal used for electric power in the US was transported by rail: Train cars, barges, and trucks all run on diesel fuel, a major source of nitrogen dioxide and soot, which carry substantial human health risks [ 22 ].
Transporting coal can also produce coal dust, which presents serious cardiovascular and respiratory risks for communities near transportation routes [ 23 ]. Natural gas is transported over long distances by transmission pipelines, while distribution pipelines deliver gas locally to homes and businesses. But natural gas is also highly flammable, making the process of transporting it from wellhead to homes and businesses dangerous. Between and , there were 5, significant safety incidents related to natural gas pipeline transmission and distribution, leading to fatalities and injuries [ 24 ].
In addition to safety concerns, natural gas leaks from transmission and distribution pipelines are a significant source of methane emissions. A recent study, which mapped urban pipeline leaks in Boston, found 3, separate leaks under the city streets. The study noted that Boston is not unique; other cities, like New York and Washington DC, have aging natural gas distribution infrastructures, and similar methane leaks are likely widespread [ 25 ].
Large leaks from natural gas infrastructure also occur. The growth in LNG shipments has provoked safety concerns, particularly where LNG terminals are situated near densely settled areas. In the wake of the Sept.
Oil is transported across the ocean in supertankers, and it is moved over land by pipeline, rail, and truck. In every case, the risk of oil spills poses a serious environmental threat. The infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill released , barrels of oil into the Prince Williams Sound in Alaska, but was only the 35 th largest marine oil tanker spill since While major oil spills have decreased, they still occur: Spills and leaks from onshore oil pipelines also continue to be a major risk.
Some of the most significant hidden costs of fossil fuels are from the air emissions that occur when they are burned. Unlike the extraction and transport stages, in which coal, oil, and natural gas can have very different types of impacts, all fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide and other harmful air pollutants when burned. These emissions lead to a wide variety of public health and environmental costs that are borne at the local, regional, national, and global levels. Comparing energy sources in terms of their global warming pollution.
Adapted from information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Of the many environmental and public health risks associated with burning fossil fuels, the most serious in terms of its universal and potentially irreversible consequences is global warming. In , approximately 78 percent of US global warming emissions were energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide. Of this, approximately 42 percent was from oil and other liquids, 32 percent from coal, and 27 percent from natural gas [ 34 ].
Non-fossil fuel energy generation technologies, like wind, solar, and geothermal, contributed less than 1 percent of the total energy related global warming emissions. Even when considering the full lifecycle carbon emissions of all energy sources, coal, oil, and natural gas clearly stand out with significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions [ 35 ]. The use of fossil fuels in transportation contributes almost 30 percent of all US global warming emissions, rivalling—and likely to surpass—the power sector [ 36 ].
Burning fossil fuels emits a number of air pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and public health. Sulfur dioxide SO 2 emissions, primarily the result of burning coal, contribute to acid rain and the formation of harmful particulate matter. In addition, SO 2 emissions can exacerbate respiratory ailments, including asthma, nasal congestion, and pulmonary inflammation [ 37 ].
In , fossil fuel combustion at power plants accounted for 64 percent of US SO 2 emissions [ 38 ]. Nitrogen oxides NOx emissions, a byproduct of all fossil fuel combustion, contribute to acid rain and ground-level ozone smog , which can burn lung tissue and can make people more susceptible to asthma, bronchitis, and other chronic respiratory diseases. Fossil fuel-powered transportation is the primary contributor to US NOx emissions [ 39 ].
Acid rain is formed when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides mix with water, oxygen, and other chemicals in the atmosphere, leading to rain and other precipitation that is mildly acidic. Acidic precipitation increases the acidity of lakes and streams, which can be harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms. Particulate matter soot emissions produce haze and can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and elevated occurrence of premature death. In , it is estimated that fine particle pollution from US coal plants resulted in 13, deaths, 9, hospitalizations, and 20, heart attacks.
The impacts are particularly severe among the young, the elderly, and those who suffer from respiratory disease. As airborne mercury settles onto the ground, it washes into bodies of water where it accumulates in fish, and subsequently passes through the food chain to birds and other animals. The consumption of mercury-laden fish by pregnant women has been associated with neurological and neurobehavioral effects in infants.
Young children are also at risk [ 44 ]. Air pollution in Los Angeles. A number of studies have sought to quantify the health costs associated with fossil fuel-related air pollution. A study also assessed the economic impacts of fossil fuel use, including illnesses, premature mortality, workdays lost, and direct costs to the healthcare system associated with emissions of particulates, NOx, and SO 2.
Fossil fuel transportation emissions represent the largest single source of toxic air pollution in the U. Across the United States, the demand for electricity is colliding with the need for healthy and abundant freshwater.
Nationwide, fossil fuel and nuclear power plants have been found to withdraw as much water as all farms and more than four times as much as all residences. More than 80 percent of this power plant cooling water originates in lakes and rivers, directly impacting local ecosystems and often competing with other uses, such as agriculture and recreation. As of , about 20 percent of U. Power plants substantially contributed to the water stress in one-fifth of these watersheds [ 48 ].
Some power plants have large impacts on the temperature of nearby water sources, particularly coal plants with once-through cooling systems. For a typical megawatt once-through system, 70 to billion gallons of water cycle through the power plant before being released back into a nearby source. Because this heated water contains lower levels of dissolved oxygen, its reintroduction to aquatic ecosystems can stress native wildlife, increasing heart rates in fish and decreasing fish fertility.
Instead, they are typically refined and purified into a usable form, leaving excess waste material that requires disposal. The handling and disposal of this waste results in costly environmental and community health challenges.
Coal is known for being a dirty fuel, not just because of its high carbon content compared with other fossil fuels but also because it contains a large amount of toxic heavy metals and other chemicals. This process involves crushing and washing the coal to remove waste materials. The purified coal is then transported to its final destination, leaving behind coal slurry, a watery waste that contains arsenic, mercury, chromium, cadmium, and other heavy metals.
As much as 50 percent of pre-processed coal materials can end up as highly toxic waste [ 49 ]. Others harmful materials remain as excess waste when the coal is burned. After combustion, the material left behind is known as coal ash, consisting of fly ash and bottom ash.
If the plant does not have pollution control equipment, this waste is emitted directly as air pollution. Bottom ash is the substance that remains at the bottom of the furnace. Both fly ash and bottom ash contain large amounts of toxic heavy metals and require careful—and costly—disposal. Coal slurry pre-combustion waste and coal ash post-combustion waste are stored in large reservoir impoundments. There are over a thousand coal slurry impoundments and coal ash waste sites in the US, many of which contain hundreds of millions of gallons of waste [ 50 , 51 ].
If the reservoirs are unlined as are at least 42 percent of US coal combustion waste ponds and landfills or if lined reservoirs are not properly maintained, harmful chemicals can leach into surface and groundwater supplies.
The presence of toxic heavy metals in drinking water has been found to cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders, neurological damage, learning disabilities, and kidney disease [ 52 ]. When oil and gas are extracted, water previously trapped within geologic formations is brought to the surface.
Extraction companies often temporarily store this water in open-air pits with impermeable liners to avoid seepage, but heavy rain can cause these pits to overflow.
Covered holding tanks offer a more secure temporary storage option [ 56 ]. Oil and gas wastewater can also impact aquatic wildlife. Oil and grease leaked into water systems can adhere to fish and waterfowl and destroy algae and plankton, disrupting the primary food sources of fragile aquatic ecosystems.
And heavy metals in the wastewater can be toxic to fish, even in low concentrations, and may be passed through the food chain, adversely affecting humans and larger animals [ 57 ]. Burning coal, oil, and natural gas has serious and long-standing negative impacts on public health, local communities and ecosystems, and the global climate.
Yet the majority of fossil fuel impacts are far removed from the fuels and electricity we purchase, hidden within public and private health expenditures, military budgets, emergency relief funds, and the degradation of sensitive ecosystems. Renewable energy—such as wind and solar power—carries far fewer negative impacts at increasingly competitive prices.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has worked for decades on transforming the electricity and transportation sectors, and is committed to policies and practices that encourage clean energy. Coal daily fatality report — year end Press release, December 6. Digging into community health concerns. Online here , accessed on May 3, Oil and gas production wastes. Modern shale gas development in the United States: Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
Prepared by committee staff for Henry A. Markey, and Diana DeGette. Natural gas operations from a public health perspective. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal 17 5: Online at here , accessed on May 3, Viability analyses for conservation of sage-grouse populations.
Prepared for the U. Bureau of Land Management. Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America. Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. The Physical Science Basis. Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas. On scene coordinator report: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Department of the Interior. The political and economic crises affecting the oil-rich South American country have resulted in its crude production going into freefall.
The collapse has tightened oil markets much more quickly than anticipated, experts said. The IEA paints a dire picture of an oil industry falling apart as conditions in the country worsen, with corruption issues, problems with payments and equipment breaking down.
Iran and Venezuela are not the only sources of geopolitical instability causing oil prices to rise. While a direct military confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is seen as unlikely, any intensification of proxy conflicts in the region would undermine stability, the Japanese financial services group said. The IEA warned that recent geopolitical events had increased uncertainty over future global oil supplies.
Globally, the economy is strong, with the IMF forecasting 3. Healthy economic activity had been been an important factor in rising oil prices so far but observers are warning that crude is so expensive it will begin to dent demand for oil.
The watchdog this week revised down global oil demand growth slightly from 1. Demand is expected to average Another counterbalance to bullish prices is US shale oil production, which has boomed off the back of stronger oil prices.
Oil slumps 5 percent as global equities tumble, Saudi supply assurances
They include coal, natural gas, and oil, and are used as an energy the Appalachia region, impacting nearly million acres of land . Climate Concerns Are Pushing Oil Majors to Look beyond Fossil Fuels electric car battery that could be recharged in as little as five minutes. Major oil spills are bad for the environment because they damage wildlife, marine to an oil spill may be poisoned by oil and die or experience other problems.