Since the discovery of oil, humans have industrialized at an explosive rate. It has allowed the creation of great cities and has been the downfall of many people. It has fueled wars, forged corporate alliances, created empires and destroyed those foolish enough to speculate in the venture. It may ultimately destroy civilization as we know it if something is not done. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, for short, is a wildlife reserve in Alaska that contains billions of barrels of oil underneath its surface. While drilling in ANWR will not save the world from the potential economic meltdown caused by peak oil, it will buy us some time until we can figure out a real solution to this dilemma.
The first oil well was dug in 1859 by Colonel Drake on Watson’s Flats near Titusville, and the oil market didn’t start up until the latter part of 1860, when speculators in the area drilled other wells and increased production in an effort to make money. The first barrel of oil sold for around twenty dollars to an experimenter who was interested in the value from it. Thereafter, the price dropped from twenty dollars a barrel to $3.50 a barrel, and then do a dollar, and then fifty cents. As production increased, the price fell. The first wells that were drilled pumped oil at a rate of 10 barrels per day, but in 1861 some deposits were found that spouted oil from the ground at rates of 300 barrels to 2,000 barrels per day. This knocked the price down further to 25 cents a barrel, and finally to 20 cents.
At this point in time the market was immature, and the oil business disorganized. Lack of storage and production controls meant that a lot of the oil was wasted and ran off into the creek. However, in 1862 demand for oil increased to a point that the surplus was absorbed, and the price of oil slowly rose from 20 cents to $2.50, with production at 2.6 million barrels (“How the Price,” 1882).
Understanding this cycle of supply and demand of oil is a key to understanding why depending on it will lead us to destruction. Oil is a limited resource (Wood, 2009). In actuality, oil production runs along a bell curve. (Savinar) When a new well is drilled, the productivity of it increases until the reservoir is half depleted, and then it starts producing less. This concept is known as peak oil. (Savinar) As oil reservoirs run low, they will produce less. Less supply with the same level of demand will lead to higher prices.
The problem with peak oil is that as oil supply declines naturally, the demand for it will not. An increase of just 5% can lead to a high increase in the price of oil, as much as 300-400%. This is what happened to America the past few years. Prices dropped somewhat when Americans defaulted on loans, causing a recession. This recession caused less demand for oil (Savinar).
Oil is a form of energy. It is easy to harvest, store, and refine. It can be used to make products or provide power to the things we use everyday. It is not so much that we are reliant on oil as it is that we are reliant on energy. As technology becomes more and more a part of life, so too does our reliance on energy. Oil is simply abundant and versatile. Not only has its use pervaded the labor market, but the financial sector is indirectly tied in because finance supports labor. Loans are made on the premise that the economy will continue to increase its productivity, and so far, it is oil that fuels this productivity (Savinar).
Oil is found underneath the ground. Drill sites can be located either on land, or at sea. The first wells were dug at random by speculators called wildcats (“Oil: probing the,” 1974). These speculations generally ended up in bankruptcy, since drilling a well is expensive, Recent innovations in technology have made it possible to determine the exact locations of oil reservoirs, and the number of barrels they contain.
One such reservoir is the ANWR Coastal Plain, a 1.5 million acre area, although the area that would be affected would only be about 12,000 acres. It is estimated that there could be as much as 3.2 billion to 9.2 billion barrels of oil in the Coastal plain (“Oil exploration can,”). While that won’t save us, it will help ease the burden on the oil crisis that the world is facing today, at least for a little bit.
Drilling in Alaska is very safe, statistically speaking. While the state has had oil spills, such as the Exxon Mobil spill in Valdez, the Prudhoe Bay has not had a spill in over twenty years (“Oil exploration can,” ). That is a very impressive track record. Furthermore, only a small portion of ANWR will be developed for oil use. This means that a lot of it will remain untouched and unharmed. With the technology at hand today, it is conceivable that this can be done safely.
Oil is not renewable. It represents an energy savings over several billion years from a time when humans hadn’t discovered it and planned their day around the light and dark cycles, and their workload based on the power that could be mustered from many people acting in unison. In the two hundred years since humans have discovered oil, it is has taken them much farther than they could ever imagine, but this energy savings spending plan is quickly catching up in numerous ways, which will prove disastrous if something is not done.
As noted. Oil production follows a bell curve (Savinar, Matt). This means, for example, that a well that started in 1970 and reaches its peak of production in 2000 will produce just as much oil in 2030 as it did in 1970. Demand for oil, unfortunately, does not follow this same trend. This presents some very important issues that need to be addressed if the world is to survive the energy bubble.
Combusting oil releases carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounted for 27% of Greenhouse gas emissions in 2003, and 24.8% of Greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. Greenhouse gas emissions from all other sectors increased 9.5% in the same frame of time (“Greenhouse gas emissions,” 2006) .
Oil is not the only form of fossil fuel that is burned in abundance. Another form is coal. In fact, over 50% of electricity generation is powered by coal, and coal accounts for 94% of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production (DOT, 2009).
Nuclear Energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, at least, not directly. Mining uranium uses fossil fuels because the vehicles that mine and transport the uranium still run off of fossil fuels (Savinar). However, using uranium as a source of power is clean and efficient. It is also very safe. No meltdowns have occurred in the United States, while a few have occurred in other countries, often to devastating effects. Chernobyl is one such example, where a few of the reactors had a blow out which devastated the surrounding area and contaminated an even larger area. The effects of Chernobyl can be seen even today (“Testimony report,” ).
While nuclear energy is safe, a big part of this safety comes with intricate care in its handling (Schrock, 1998) . Uranium is highly radioactive and has a very long half-life. Using uranium fuel creates a waste product that must be handled with extreme care because of its radioactive properties. This usually involves large concrete bunkers that must remain in place for an indeterminate amount of time as the radiation slowly dissipates based on its half life. Fortunately, there may be a better solution, and that is renewable energy.
Renewable Energy is energy that is harnessed through the earth’s natural environment either through wind, sun, geothermic, or tidal power. It is energy that, once the infrastructure is in place, is very cheap to maintain compared to fossil fuels, which must be mined. Solar panels, for instance, once erected, create no pollution or other byproducts (“Renewable energy defined,” 2009) .
This definition can be attributed to growing ethanol out of corn. Unfortunately, while renewable, it is not sustainable because corn still requires fertilizer created from fossil fuels to grow (“Renewable vs sustainable,” ). As such, it should be noted that the renewable in this article is being defined as renewable and sustainable.
Twenty German companies (Connoly, 2009), and a city in Sweden (Fry, 2009)., are just two notable notable examples of people utilizing this technology.
The German companies have formed a corporate alliance to for a massive solar power initiative in the Deserts of North Africa. If successful, Europe could be solar-powered within ten years. The project, called Desertec, is estimated to cost around 400 billion euros, or about 590 billion American dollars given the rates as of December 10, 2009 (“Currency calculator,” 2009) .
If Europe can be powered entirely by the sun, than an entire continent’s worth of current and projected pollution output for power usage is zero. With the momentum gathered after the initial investments into renewable energy, it could be possible to invest into more infrastructure that could power other continents, or bring renewable energy to other sectors of our environment. Power generation is only one aspect of energy.
With the suburb in Malmo, it is possible to design future cities in such a way to have little or no carbon footprint, which can go a long way considering that the world’s population is constantly expanding and that there are several countries who are still developing.
Transportation and electricity generation is still largely driven by fossil fuels. This means that to make the aluminum necessary for a windmill, fossil fuels must be burned through either generating power to the aluminum plant or transporting the materials necessary. Mining the components necessary also uses fossil fuels. (Savinar).
These problems are temporary, but are issues that need to be addressed. The most important issue will definitely be converting transportation to renewable energy sources. Simple batteries will not work, as they are still charged by coal and oil burning plants (Savinar). A better option would be solar panels on the car ((Woodyard) , or, if at a place of residence or business, solar panels could be built on top of the home or parking lot, and the car could be plugged in.
Solar energy, unfortunately, only works when the sun is out. Cloudy days, or nights, render the technology ineffective.
Wind plants can only work when the wind is blowing. For some areas, wind power is a great advantage because it is always windy. Wind power will not work in other areas due to lack of wind speeds year round.
Tidal energy is much the same way. There are hydroelectric dams that harness energy from rivers and the output can be controlled by allowing only a certain amount of water to flow through
The world is far too industrialized to go back to the way it was before oil was discovered, and yet, this valuable resource will not last forever. Since it is impossible to go back, the only solution is to push forward into a new era of energy, one that is renewable and clean. since this technology is not yet perfected, it is imperative that drilling for oil be carried out while it is still possible in addition to finding a means of not having to use any of it. Doing so is quite paradoxical, but the world has always worked in a paradox. Stagnation is failure. Bold, new endeavors will save the world from economic collapse.
Connoly, Kate. (2009, June 16). German blue chip firms throw weight behind north African solar initiative. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/16/solar-power-europe-africa
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Oil exploration can be a boon to Alaskans and environment.. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.uaf.edu/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=11&sid=64ec3f64-6a1f-4386-8fc5-aaf00c02bdf9%40sessionmgr4&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=9510300158#db=aph&AN=9510300158
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Woodyard, C. (n.d.). Automakers install solar panels on such cars as prius, Audi a8. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-01-19-solar-panel-cars-automakers-prius_N.ht
Wood, C.C. (2009, October 27). Peak oil is a serious business contingency planning issue. Retrieved from http://kickingthegasoline.com/contingency-planning/peak-oil-is-a-serious-business-contingency-planning-issue/
“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” (Presidential Campaign Slogans 2009) This was the 1928 Presidential campaign slogan for Herbert Hoover. Currently a person who comes across this quote would think that it’s not that big of a feat to achieve this goal because we’re so desensitized with meat consumption. Yes, Hoover might have been referring to financial security and the wellbeing of the economic environment, but it’s not hard to draw other conclusions from this statement. It’s unheard of to have people going without meat daily throughout the world, especially in the United States. Not only is the world consuming more meat, but also we’re consuming more food altogether and using up much more natural resources which leads to many unnecessary harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere. These harmful emissions are having damaging effects that may be irreversible. Meat consumption is on the rise throughout the world and detrimental effects are being inflicted on the planet.
“Meat production is projected to double by 2020 due to increased incomes, population growth, and rising per capita global consumption of meat.” (Mooney 2006) In 1961, the United States consumed 16,867,139 metric tons of meat. By 2002, meat consumption had sky rocketed to 39,716,290 metric tons. (Earth Trends 2007) That is a difference of 22,849,151 metric tons in about 40 years. Coming across such alarming results throws up a red flag for me. What about our children? In 40 more years, I’ll hopefully have grandchildren by then and I would be terrified to see the current standing of our environmental health and the effects it will have on future generations. Technology is a main reason for such a growing appetite for meat. Not only is it easier to raise these animals at an unnatural and unprecedented rate, but also our Earth cannot tolerate such harsh measures because of how unnatural it is. “These trends will have major consequences on the global environment-affecting the quality of the atmosphere, water, and soil due to nutrient overloads; impacting marine fisheries both locally and globally through fish meal use; and threatening human health, as, for example, through excessive use of antibiotics.” (Mooney 2006).
Many people might argue that the world is facing global changes because of major crop production but these two factors go hand-in-hand. Yes, corn crops produce a ton of carbon emissions, but so do the grains that we produce for our livestock. It would be much more reasonable and economically rewarding to farm something that is more efficient, such as smaller animals. Chickens and turkey farms don’t consume as much grain as the average cattle farm, so it would be a great idea to give the environment a break and once again, be reasonable. “The link between grain and meat boils down to the following equation: it takes up to 8kg of animal feed to produce 1kg of beef.” (Bond 2008). Not only are we having excess in agricultural crops for human consumption but also now we’re adding that to the surge in animal engineering. It’s a never-ending cycle because we constantly are adding on to the mistakes we’re making.
Along with the tie between crop production and our meat consumption, there’s also a link between a water shortage throughout the world and the high meat diets we all choose to keep. Cattle is the biggest culprit to water consumption in animal farming. They consume much more than your average turkey or chicken farm. “Animal production, including aquaculture, is a major water consumer. For future developments in animal production, water is in many situations a more serious constraint than land or space for increasing production.” (Verdegem 2006) This being said, it’s important to keep the issue of water in the back of our heads when we go about buying our meat products in the store, not so much our daily domestic behaviors because those don’t in fact have as much of an impact. Have you ever thought about how much water runs through all of these animals daily, not to mention yearly? It’s almost unfathomable. “According to international water expert Professor Frank Rijsberman, a person’s diet, not how long they spend in the shower, is the main determining factor in per capita water consumption, with meat requiring vastly more water to produce than most other food.” (Rijsberman 2004). So next time you’re showering, you shouldn’t sweat the extra minute or two you spend washing your hair, you should be concerned about the hamburger helper sitting in your refrigerator. “So the diet of a typical meat-eater comes courtesy of about 5400 liters of water a day, double that of a vegetarian getting the same nutritional value.” (Rijsberman 2004). Many places in the world such as China, Africa, and places in the Middle East are all facing drastic water shortages already. A common misconception is that there isn’t enough actual water, but that’s not the case. It’s the fact that the water that is available to these areas of the world is so toxic and not consumable that it becomes an issue and people aren’t able to utilize it for their daily needs. Runoffs from farms and meat factories leak into water reservoirs and contaminate them until the water itself is unusable until it is refined. In reality, one of the major complications with our environment all comes down to how many animals we are consuming annually, if not daily.
Another issue with water shortages from over consuming meat has to do with a very delicate issue. Hypoxia is defined as an inadequacy in the oxygen reaching the body’s tissues. Fish are constantly facing this issue because of contaminants leaking into freshwater areas and the carbon buildup that takes away from dissolved oxygen in the water, which the fish need to survive. (Pollock 2007) “A study by the US-based World Resources Institute shows that the rise in meat consumption and demand for fossil fuels is a direct cause of oxygen depletion in the world’s coastal and freshwater areas… close to 500 coastal areas now suffer from hypoxia. The number is expected to rise.” (SOS Global Warming 2009) This has to do with all meat production and animal factories around the world. The article also mentioned that “factory hog farming” is having a major effect on the environment. The pig manure completely toxifies the environment. “One swine operation in the Black Sea region that is now closed had more than 1 million pigs and generated sewage equivalent to a town of 5 million people.” (SOS Global Warming 2009) After the fish die out or start to deplete, we will deplete as one. There will be no more countries pointing fingers because pointing fingers always ends up with three pointing back at you. We are all in this together and we need to start facing the facts and looking at the numbers, because they’re alarming and are mirroring our fate if we don’t take care of our home. As I mentioned before, we are all in this together. We need to stop looking at individual countries statistics and evaluate the numbers globally. I could throw a bunch of numbers around but the bottom line is that it’s over-the-top, and something needs to be done.
As an example to cutting down on meat consumption, people can start slowly by easing up on beef production. Beef has massive effects on the environment, such as eroding away soil, global warming, and methane gas emissions. “Beef production can lead to global grain shortages and decreased food security for poor people who have to pay more for their basic diets.” (Kasa 2008) Ironically, we are growing food for our food while the actual human population of the Earth deteriorates in some areas. If people are starving because the cows are eating their food, there is obviously something very wrong. Along with this, “beef production is labor extensive and land extensive, resulting in few jobs for poor rural populations.” (Kasa 2008) Not only is it morally wrong to be raising cattle in this fashion, but also it’s also not good for an individual to consume that much beef. Beef is higher in fat than say, fish or turkey, so it’s not a stretch to say that obesity will continue to rise which will lead to more food production which inevitably leads to more cattle. If more people could try to utilize protein-rich vegetables or protein substitutes, they would still be getting the same vitamin intake, just in different and more environmentally friendly ways. Fish is a very good option as well, it’s a lot less damaging to the Earth to consume fish and cheaper for the economy. It’s a vicious cycle, and the only way to stop it is to take an initiative and accept change.
As an incentive to cut back on meat consumption, people should try to educate themselves on the benefits of a meatless or very low meat diet. “Researchers from Britain and New Zealand compared 6,115 vegetarians in the United Kingdom with 5,015 meat-eaters over a 12-year period… those who ate a meatless diet had a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer and a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause, including cancer, than those who consumed meat.” (Harvard Health Letter 1994). Vegetarians tend to have very low body fat percentages and less heart problems. On top of this, you’re not consuming the massive amounts of chemicals that are injected and fed to these animals daily. There have been some recent studies showing that the reason people are developing cancer is because of what we put in our bodies. From this it’s not hard to draw our own conclusions that animals that are genetically engineered might alter our cells once we ingest them. “Environmental factors such as diet are associated with cancer risk. The intake of meats, such as beef, varies 3-fold across the world—consumption is highest in developed countries…approximately 35% of cancer can be attributed to diet, similar in magnitude to the contribution of smoking cancer.” (Genkinger 2007)
Meat consumption is something that has been on the rise for decades and is currently out of control. We have almost tripled our consumption of meat in the last 50 years. That is unacceptable and should be altered quickly if we wish to sustain life. Recent studies have been coming out and people are becoming much more aware of the health of our planet. There are signs that we all see daily and seasonally that are throwing red flags up for health officials and scientists all over the world and at least we’re slowly starting to acknowledge the damage we have inflicted on ourselves. Animal agriculture and farming has spun so out of control that it’s hard to remember times when a meal with meat as the main component was a treat. That is the mentality we need to all adopt, that meat is a treat and that it is something to be valued rather than abused or overused. If we must eat meat and not substitute it for healthier options such as protein-rich vegetables, than we at least need to calm down the demand for it. Meat consumption affects everyone in a negative way and is going to ultimately make a huge difference in the physiological aspect of our environment. The atmosphere is breaking down which leads to global warming and other complications throughout the world. People are starting to realize this and there are some that are making changes although it’s minor when we compare it to the rest of the world as a whole. There are guidelines to meat consumption being put in place to educate people on the amount of meat they should be consuming regularly. It’s a common fact that people shouldn’t consume more meat in a sitting than a deck of cards, let alone in one day. If we all could use this measurement and apply it to our daily lives we would be doing the world a great service and a service to ourselves. Simplicity needs to be on everyone’s mind during this time as well as in the future.
Bond, M. (2008) The Trouble With Meat. Engineering and Technology. 3(11) 16-19. Retrieved on December 5, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (17509637)
Genkinger, Jeanine. (2007) Meat Consumption and Cancer Risk. PLoS Medicine. 4(12) 345. Retrieved on December 7, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (15491277)
Harvard Health Letter. (1994) Eat Your Vegetables. 20(1) 8. Retrieved on December 8, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (10521577)
Kasa, Sjur. (2008) Globalizing Unsustainable Food Consumption. Globalizations. 5(2), 151-163. Retrieved on December 6, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (14747731)
Pollock, Mike. (2007) The Effects of Hypoxia on Fishes: From Ecological Relevance to Physiological Effects. Environmental Reviews. 15(1), 1-14. Retrieved on December 5, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (11818700)
Rijsberman, Frank. (2004) Meat Diets Drive Water Consumption. Ecos. Issue 122, p.7. Retrieved on December 7, 2009, from Academic Search Premier (03114546)
Verdegem, M. (2006) Reducing Water Use for Animal Production through Aquaculture. International Journal of Water Resources Development. 22(1) p.101-113. Retrieved on Dec. 11, 2009 from Academic Search Premier (07900627)
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Mooney, Harold. (May 31, 2006.) Consequences of Increased Global Meat Consumption on the Global Environment. Retrieved December 8, from Stanford University website: http://fsi.stanford.edu/research/2181
Earth Trends The Environmental Information Portal. (2007) Meat Consumption. Retrieved December 4, from http://earthtrends.wri.org/searchable_db/index.php?step=countries&ccID%5B%5D=5&allcountries=checkbox&theme=8&variable_ID=192&action=select_years
SOS Global Warming Meat Consumption Devastating World’s Waters. (July 24, 2009.) Retrieved December 7 from http://suprememastertv.com/sos-global-warming/Meat-consumption-devastating-worlds-waters.html
I am an Alaskan and like so many others from The Last Frontier I would love to see more money coming into our state by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or, more commonly know as ANWR. But is that really what our world needs? Is Alaska going to be the state that pushes the world into climate chaos? Or are Alaskan’s going to be a state to start showing our care about the environment by preserving not just the Last Frontier, but helping to preserve the rest of the world as well? Drilling in ANWR could help sustain our country’s addiction to oil and delay research and movement towards renewable energies.
Prudhoe Bay is a name known not just too all Alaskans, but too many people in the United States as well. Prudhoe Bay is the home of Alaska’s black gold, the home base for all of the North Slope’s (Alaskan lingo for the coast of the Arctic Ocean and flat lands beyond the Brooks Range) oil fields. Now over seventy percent of Alaska’s economy comes from the oil that it produces, but Prudhoe Bay has reached its peak and started going down the other side. Alaskan’s worry not just about their dividends, but higher taxes as well. So Alaskan’s are looking at ANWR where a supposedly 3.2-9.2 billion barrels of oil are now sleeping quite soundly below the Arctic Tundra. But ANWR will be just like Prudhoe Bay; it may extend the life of Alaska’s oil industry another fifty years, but when ANWR declines as well where will Alaskan’s turn then?
Alaskan’s are some of the countries biggest environmentalists being skiers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, participants of various motor sports, and other outdoor activities. Most people in Alaska take part in one of these various outdoor activities. These people don’t just run all over Alaska ruining its plentiful wildlife and going as they please, they cherish every trail and every bit of wilderness. If Alaskan’s were given a surefire replacement to their oil industry that would make another Exxon Valdez near impossible and keep their economy going strong, they would get behind that and run with it all the way to Washington. The world needs renewable energy, Alaska needs renewable energy. Prudhoe Bay has proved that it is extremely possible to coexist with nature and the wildlife around it is flourishing. So Alaska has gotten some things right in working for the environment, but making Alaska completely green (and I mean green energy) will be a challenge that will take some thought and risk taking.
That is what could happen if Alaska went all green instead of just white. If Alaska decides to drill for oil in ANWR, the state will just be regular old America soaking up all of the money and not caring what damage is done to get it. The problem in Alaska (just as it is in the rest of the United States) is that Alaskan’s are addicted to oil. The state is just like the petrodictators in the Middle East described by Friedman, T. L. (2006). Alaska is so happy being fat on all of their oil and not paying any taxes, that more oil always sounds like a good thing. Let’s face it, drilling for oil and making a gas pipeline creates more jobs and boosts the economy, pretty convincing in and of itself. So if ANWR was opened up it would create plenty of jobs, it would boost Alaska’s economy, it would make the rest of the United States very happy to have cheaper oil, and it would just make being American that much easier to do without changing. On the one hand there are plenty of benefits that could come from opening up ANWR for oil drilling, and on the other it would just keep Alaska and the United States right were we are. Alaskan’s and American’s are just sitting back and consuming all of the world’s resources and watching the planet suffer. People may just eventually turn the world into what Pixar Animation Studios presented in their animated picture WALL-E, an Earth unable to be habitable by life of any kind; Stanton, A. (2008).
When anyone mentions Alaska the color white is what comes to, but Alaskan’s know that their beautiful Last Frontier is not just white but green as well. Alaska and the United States could be leading the march to the world of WALL-E if they decided to drill in ANWR. Alaska should not be the one to sustain our country’s addiction to oil, by drilling in ANWR, and delay research and movement towards renewable energies. Alaska should be leading the people of the world to preserve their home, as being Alaskan’s and owners of the Last Frontier should want to go green and keep their state greener.
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