Cross posted from Scaling Green. It’s highly relevant for Virginia, given our heavy reliance on coal and the fact that certain misguided politicians have pushed for offshore oil drilling and even “fracking” in the George Washington National Forest!
We know that burning fossil fuels emits a wide variety of nasty pollutants – particulates (which increase the the risk of respiratory illnesses), sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain), mercury (which contaminates fish), lead (which can lead to learning disabilities), carbon monoxide (which can cause shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness), carbon dioxide (which contributes to global warming), and many others. We also know that the process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels causes significant environmental damage, including enormous oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
As if all that’s not bad enough, how about a list of the top 10 toxic ingredients used by the fossil fuel industries, courtesy of The Raw Story? Here’s a sampling.
- Benzene: A “well-established carcinogen with specific links to leukemia as well as breast and urinary tract cancers,” benzene is “a major component in all major fossil fuel production: oil, coal, and gas.”
- Formaldehyde: A “carcinogen with known links to leukemia and rare nasopharyngeall cancers,” formaldehyde “is commonly used in ‘fracking’ – although, the industry does not report the details of its use.”
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Many of these are “known human carcinogens and genetic mutagens,” as well as being “linked to childhood asthma, low birth weight, adverse birth outcomes including heart malformations, and DNA damage.” It turns out that “[t]he rapid development of the Alberta ‘tar sands’ oil fields in Alberta, Canada, has coincided with both the discovery of dangerous levels of PAHs in the region and multiple reports of significantly higher rates of cancer and other diseases in the adjacent communities.”
- Silica: A “known human carcinogen; breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, a form of lung disease with no cure.” Silica “is commonly used, in huge amounts, during fracking operations.”
- Radon: “About 20,000 people per year die from lung cancer attributed to radon exposure.” Radon “is released into local groundwater and air during fracking operations.”
- Hydrofluoric Acid: “[C]an immediately damage lungs, leading to chronic lung disease; contact on skin penetrates to deep tissue, including bone, where it alters cellular structure.” It is “a common ingredient used in oil and gas extraction.”
Nasty, nasty stuff that none of would want anywhere near our families, friends, or ourselves, right? Yet the fossil fuel industry dumps these dangerous pollutants into the environment every day, basically with impunity. It’s outrageous, and it should be completely unacceptable. So why isn’t it? Simple: these are immensely profitable and powerful industries with enormous clout in our political system, not to mention the ability to buy access and influence in the media. Which, as former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pointed out in his interview with Tigercomm President Mike Casey, is exactly what they do.