To What Extent Are the Environmental Impacts of the Global Increase in Demand for Oil Acceptable?

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To what extent are the environmental impacts of the global increase in demand for oil acceptable? [15 marks] After the industrial revolution, the demand for oil has been increasing globally. Over 100 million tonnes of oil are transported around the world on average a day. There are countries like the US which consume almost one quarter of global oil output, which must be supplied from oil reserves, usually from countries like Saudi Arabia (Guinness, 2011, p. 245). This shows that the topic of oil consumption is a global issue as all countries need oil to develop and provide for their populations. The issue with this large consumption of oil is the fact that oil is a non-renewable source of energy and therefore has a limit. Oil is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals in underground rock which is found in marine areas and therefore requires technology such as pipelines and drilling machines to extract the oil. The implications of this has caused serious environmental consequences which questions whether extracting oil to supply the demands of the world’s population should be permitted when the environment has to pay the cost, examples being oil leaks into the sea and the effects of that. With a growing global population, energy companies are trying to find sources of energy and are therefore trying to construct pathways and routes to constantly feed people’s needs and demands. This has lead to companies searching and drilling for oil in fragile environments, such as the Alaska pipeline which crosses 3 mountain ranges. The reason why companies are looking into areas full of permafrost is because global warming is causing the ice in the Arctic Circle to melt and oil rich sea beads are now being uncovered. The implementation of the Alaska pipeline has not caused any major environmental problems as many obstacles had been avoided when constructing this project, such as raising the pipeline on stilts so that that the heated oil would not cause the ice to melt. However, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which occurred in 1989 did take place and still affects the environment, animal species and humans to this day. The oil tanker named Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.2 million barrels of oil when it ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling 240 000 barrels. The oil slick eventually covered 25 000 km2 coastal and off-shore waters and 1700km of coastline (RGS Worcester, n.d., para. 2). A major oil spill like this has resulted in devastating environmental impacts, which has caused social and economical impacts as well. The clean-up process, which included burning the oil (relatively effective as it reduced 113,400 liters of oil to 1,134 liters of removable residue), spraying chemicals on the oil which reached the shoreline and mechanical cleanup methods, did not eradicate the oil fast enough as the environmental impacts are still present after 21 years. 10000 people were involved in the clean up and it took 4 summers and cost 2 billion dollars. This large number of people put their jobs on hold and attended to the effects of the oil spill, which could have caused a decline in the economy in Alaska (Exxon Valdez oil spill, n.d., para. 5). The biggest impact of the oil spill was on the wildlife. Some 2,000 sea otters, 302 harbor seals and about 250,000 seabirds died within a few days after the oil spill (Graham, 2003, para. 1). A decrease in biodiversity and the ecosystems in Alaska affect the environment significantly as it disrupts food chains and causes animals like ducks and other marine animals to lose their source of food. The biggest impact, in terms of wildlife, is the herring population and the effect on the herring industry in Alaska. The spill occurred during spawning season that the inlets and bays where herring traditionally laid their eggs were choked with oil. Within four years, the herring population has disappeared. This has affected Alaskans in terms of their jobs and their source of...
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