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What does cheap oil mean?

We here at SevenC’s love a cheap fuel day as much as the next person, but what does low oil prices mean for our environment?

The price of oil is dependent on the level of demand at that current time. A drop in demand equates to lower oil prices. Although lower prices at the gas station really does put a smile on our dial, it isn’t great for the environment.

The low oil price results in producing virgin plastics becoming cheaper than recycling (by virgin plastic, we refer to plastic material created from raw products rather than recycled). The process of recycling plastic into new products is labour intensive. Still, a significant incentive for companies to use recycled material is that the production costs are cheaper than virgin plastic and the market edge of producing a product from recycled materials. Lower oil prices result in a spike of other new plastic being manufactured. Is this such a bad thing? I dunno, let’s ask the great pacific garbage patch.

Mining refined oil is not only a problem to the environment in terms of virgin plastic; it is also an environmental headache to mine. Unconventional oil is produced when the Petroleum System is underperforming. What is a Petroleum System, you may ask? It is one of the central notions in the study of petroleum geology – studying all things oil and gas. From its formation to its preservation, science is extensive. When the petroleum system is underperforming, it means the oil can not be easily extracted. As the drilling occurs, the oil becomes trapped in the clay and rock in the upper levels of the drill hole. Unconventional oil requires a far more costly retrieval process, with technologies more advanced than the industry standard. The process is hydraulic fracturing, or as many know it, fracking.

Photo credit – Frack Off

Fracking is done by drilling into the Earth and creating small explosions to release the crude oil trapped in the underground reservoirs. The initial setup of these fracking stations requires them to anchor a massive platform holding the drill. The anchoring of this hefty vessel causes destruction to the surrounding corals and sea life that call that spot in the ocean home. Not to mention the damage caused when the drilling into the ocean floor begins. These oil and gas companies do not have a way to block these drill holes, allowing oil to leak into the ocean. Resulting in constant destruction to the surrounding ecosystem long after these companies have gone.

It has been proven in the past that if the public bands together against fracking proposals around the country, we can make a difference. Take ‘Protect Ningaloo’ for example. Their extraordinary efforts halted the development of the proposed fracking site in the Exmouth Gulf. By educating the public of the detrimental impact, this would have on the thriving ecosystem in the Gulf, they have made their voices heard. We can do our part by signing petitions, writing to our local MP’s and staying educated on current environmental news.

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