Fossil Fuels: To capture the energy needed to power modern human existence, land is cleared, and habitats are destroyed to make way for the extraction of fossil fuels. The sheer amount of infrastructure that is needed to run this industry is daunting. However, when you compile the choices these companies make during their operations, it adds even more destruction to this already long list.
Infrastructures included in fossil fuel production include: the base location, pipelines and other distribution infrastructures, reservoirs, import and export terminals, office spaces and power plants. These new operations require land that once supported thriving ecosystems. An even bigger problem is that these locations can be depleted of the fossil fuels and the operation will find a new location – leaving a depressed ecosystem in its wake.
Besides the physical constructions of the fossil fuel industry, their practices are also wreaking havoc on the environment. Explosions, mine collapses, fires, deforestation, soil removal, irresponsible waste removal practices, landslides and flash floods are just some of the side effects of fossil fuel retrieval. Some may think that these are uncommon problems, but the fact is that these devastating incidents are occurring frequently. In 2016, for offshore drilling alone, there were 82 fires and 19 spills. These numbers do not include the various other methods of obtaining fossil fuels, only offshore drilling.
Waste products from these processes can also destroy habitats through pollution and habitat destruction and fragmentation. Beloved animal populations are facing extinction at the hands of the fossil fuel industry.
Coral reefs are negatively affected by the fossil fuel industry. Polar bears are negatively affected by the fossil fuel industry. Humans are negatively affected by the fossil fuel industry. Every living creature is affected by the fossil fuel industry.
Solar: For natural gas alone, 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles) of land is lost to other uses. While solar does use land, it consumes considerably less. In 2015, if all of the land used for natural gas production was instead used for solar energy production, 3 million gigawatt hours could be produced. To summarize, this amount of energy could fulfill 75% of the United States’ electric needs for a year.
Unlike the fossil fuel industry, solar energy does not need to move after the resource has been depleted in that area. By moving locations, the fossil fuel industry continues its path of destruction. Solar panels can be placed in one area for the extent of their lifecycle.
There is a concern with solar that it occupies land that could be utilized in other ways and that it disrupts habitats. However, solar panels can be positioned on land already changed by humans (i.e. parking lots, buildings, nutrient-depleted fields, etc.). Germany implemented solar that is