The price of gasoline recently dropped from over $100/barrel to less than $50/barrel. And that’s great because it encourages driving (bad for the environment), crushes Russia’s economy (bad for Russians), crushes Venezuela’s already disarrayed economy (bad for Venezuelans) and slows down the natural gas and green industry (bad for the environment). However, its major redeeming quality is that it’s fantastic for consumers globally.
In the past two decades, many people have raised environmental concerns, warning that if we do not reduce carbon emissions, our planet will suffer dire consequences: superstorms, the extinction of many species, alterations in food chains, a lack of resources, etc.
The second largest cause of carbon dioxide emissions (after burning fossil fuels for energy) in the United States is transportation, such as driving, flying and marine transportation, according to the EPA. Although the price of airfare will not necessarily drop, meaning that people won’t fly more frequently, the amount that people drive will go up.
Renewable energy sources had made headway on the claim that fossil fuels will only get more expensive, while they themselves will only get cheaper. New estimates of the amount of oil remaining and accessible make this claim false in the short run, which will substantially slow the production of new green energy sources.
However, the maintenance cost of renewable energy is significantly lower than the continued purchase of fossil fuels, so renewable energy sources will continue to be implemented (and maintained), albeit at a much slower rate.
The fracking industry has only become more effective in the past few years. Fracking is generally cheaper and produces energy at a more controllable rate: The Economist contrasted oil and natural gas, stating that, “America’s Exxon Mobil and Russia’s Rosneft recently spent two months and $700m drilling a single well in the Kara Sea, north of Siberia.
Although they found oil, developing it will take years and cost billions. By contrast, a shale-oil well can be drilled in as little as a week, at a cost of $1.5m.”
Additionally, it’s more clean-burning. A number of concerns have been raised, however, particularly about the environment and health. Fracking can be dangerous to the environment because it releases volatile chemical compounds into the air that can cause acid rain and contaminate the air. It also contaminates nearby water supplies and spreads carcinogens into the air.
But, as BBC points out, “the industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.” Of course, that would imply that federal regulation is required to enforce standards that prevent contamination.
So although fracking is a young industry, it’s still a viable alternative to oil because it is still cheaper, more controllable and (hopefully soon) better for the environment.
Yes, the reduced cost of oil does put a dent in the fracking industry, stalling environmental issues and prolonging the use of oil. But it doesn’t stop the fracking industry by any means, and the renewable energy campaign has made and will still make some headway.
Although the green revolution is slowed, the benefit for consumers is substantial. According to The Economist, the average motorist could save $800 this year in gas prices. With that kind of gain per person, the great economic benefits outweigh the environmental concerns in the short run. In the long run? Well, we’ll just have to see.