A Society Consumed by The Black Gold

The oil and gas industry claims that the only way to address our countries numerous energy issues is to open more public land and water to oil and gas drilling. What we do not know is that drilling in America is already occurring at an astonishing pace and in a bewildering number of places. More drilling will not solve the problem. So how can we be so oblivious to this? The issue is the media and these big corporations try to hide the real issues from the public eye. They cover the surface with just a bandage shielding society from the truth behind the cause and effects of drilling.

We are the largest producer of natural gas in the world and the third-largest producer of oil.5 Yet, we have only 3.8% of the world’s natural gas reserves, and less than 2% of proven oil reserves.

Oil drilling has many harmful ecological and environmental effects. The piping used to transport and extract oil is made of metals, which can corrode. This corrosion causes pipes to rupture contaminates the land and waters which surround it. If the pipes do not rupture, contamination is still eminent via the large waste pits, often left unlined and open. Oil spills, accidents, and illegal dumping of oil barrels and produced water lead to devastating ecological and health consequences that can last for decades. Many of these chemicals are detrimental or deadly to animals. Entire ecosystems can dissolve as a result of oil contamination.

As a result of the dumping and accidents we have toxic ingestion; many people suffer from skin rashes which require daily injections to prevent swelling, and chronic headaches. Long term health effects include: lung disease, liver and kidney damage, malformation, brain damage, miscarriages and many other devastating chronic conditions.

Society has enjoyed the glory of being at the top of the food chain, but if we were to reside in a region contaminated by oil drilling processes, that enjoyment would not last long. When indigenous people continue to rely on their lands and waterways for sustenance, they risk their lives. Indigenous groups have been relying on the land itself for their survival and livelihoods for hundreds of years . Until recently, their ancestral lands have been left largely untouched and unharmed, allowing them to fish and hunt and live in accordance with nature. Now, oil companies have left them with no choice but to fish oil-filled waters and farm toxic lands.

America consumes 22.8% of the oil produced in the world each year, and 20.9% of the world’s natural gas production. But we have only 1.6% of the world’s “proved oil reserves”, and only 3.8% of its “proved gas reserves.” No amount of drilling – and as demonstrated above we do more of it by far than any other country – will change these basic facts. Because drilling is already occurring at a furious pace on both federal and non-federal lands and waters, and because our share of the world’s oil and gas reserves is so small, “more drilling” is not the answer to our future energy needs. Rather, policies to encourage energy efficiency and conservation coupled with the development of clean renewable energy resources are the keys to a sustainable energy future. So, what are you going to do about this? As young activist its our duty to restore nature and preserve all that we have left. We are the future; this is our future. Do you want to be living in filth years from now?

Natural gas field in northwestern Wyoming. Photo: Peter Aengst.

Oil pipes spilling and polluting a local river.
BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

some of examples of what I plan to do relating to how we are becoming consumed by the oil industry and are oblivious to this: