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Oil and its derivatives supply an important part of the world’s energy. Oil is used to produce electricity, to operate vehicles, and for a number of other vital purposes. Unfortunately, exploiting the earth’s oil resources can be difficult, and has a serious environmental impact. As oil reserves dwindle, the disadvantages of oil drilling increase.
World oil consumption continues to rise, and reserves are depleting. This means that oil companies must work to find new sources of oil. Sources once considered very difficult to drill, such as the continental shelves, are now being targeted by potential oil rigs. Distant parts of the planet, such as the inaccessible and Antarctic areas that are currently parks and wildlife refuges have also been considered as sources of oil as the current ones begin to dry up. Oil extraction is expected to become progressively more difficult.
The transport and extraction of oil carries the risk of spills. As oil companies begin to exploit more difficult resources, such as offshore oil reserves, and transport oil long distances, the possibility of a spill increases. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was due to a problem on an offshore oil rig. According to Santa Clara University, only 5 to 15% of any oil spill can be recovered, leaving a large amount of oil in the environment. This oil can kill plants and animals, disrupt local ecosystems, and cause serious damage to tourism and local businesses. Spilled oil is also considered a human health hazard.
Oil drilling can release not only oil into the environment, but a variety of other hazardous substances, such as heavy metals. According to Santa Clara University, drilling fluid and drilling mud often contain cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead, radioactive materials, and other hazardous waste. If allowed to escape, these residues can have serious environmental effects.
Safety and Health hazards
Workers on oil rigs, both on land and at sea, are routinely exposed to health and safety risks. For example, oil drilling rigs often encounter pockets of pressurized gas that create an event called a blowout. Explosions can start fires, create an explosion, and scatter drilling debris. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill began with an explosion on the drilling rig that killed 11 workers and injured several more.