Peak Oil and Challenges Facing Coal Production and Use in USA Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1929 Words
Date:  2022-09-05


Fifteen years ago, "peak oil" was an issue of great national and global concern. Now in 2018, "peak oil" is once again in the news. How is the "peak oil" discussion today different from that of 15 years ago? What has changed?

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Peak oil refers to a theory of crude oil production in conventional sources which postulates that the oil production reaches a maximum production capacity and begins to decline which leads to an increase in the prices of oil. The peak oil theory covers oil deposits that are easily accessible, and it is postulated that the extraction of crude oil decline is inevitable and as the oil demand increases the prices goes up (Lynch). Oil is a valuable commodity that has significantly increased wealth in countries where there are oil wells. However, there is a significant difference on how the peak oil is viewed today and 15 years ago due to the different prevailing factors (Hunt). Peak Oil holds vital importance in the modern economy because a significant number of industries depends on oil. Declining oil reserves can significantly affect most aspects of life on earth as we know it.

Peak Oil 15 years ago

Peak Oil occurred from 2002 to 2004 where the oil reserves in the United States and Venezuela significantly declined. As a result, oil prices shot up and caused significant panic due to the high dependence of industries on oil (Lynch). Peak oil 15 years ago caused significant global and national care because oil provided millions of people with employment and also was used to feed many people around the world. Both industries and agriculture depend entirely on oil as a source of energy at the time. An increase in the prices of oil in 2003/2004 due to the peak oil caused an increase in the mortgage as well as the price of other commodities (Lynch). As such, the increasing price of oil led to panic in the market as people rushed to make purchases before the prices shooting up due to crude oil production decline.

Peak Oil Perception Today

Peak Oil in 2018 has not elicited similar publicity and panic as it did 15 years ago. Today, most people are not even aware of the peak oil theory because it has been discredited by the events that followed the peak oil of 2004. Despite the decline of crude oil production in the United States of America and Venezuela, the oil production increased again as more deposits were discovered which stabilized the prices. Therefore, the panic of peak oil has been significantly reduced today, and the news of the peak oil has not led to global inflation and increase in housing prices even though the demand for oil has increased in the last 15 years.

What has changed?

The world has undergone significant change and integration in the last 15 years due to globalization. Globalization has increased the interdependence between nations which has reduced the impacts of the peak oil theory. The interdependence of nations and discovery of more oil in the Middle East and the Arctic has mitigated the effects of peak oil scenario in the Americas. Today, crude oil production in the Middle East keeps increasing as more offshore oil deposits are discovered which increases global oil production for export. Besides, there has been a significant change in energy sources as more alternative sources of energy, and the issue of climate change decreases dependence on oil. Most industries and automobiles today are more efficient regarding oil use which has reduced wastages that were experienced decades ago. Therefore, the experience of the previous peak oil in American and the creation of new sources of energy has decreased significantly panic due to a peak oil scenario (Hunt). Electric cars and solar powered applications can be used as alternatives to crude oil which will have a significantly decreased effect of peak oil in 2018 and the future. As more crude oil deposits and alternative sources of energy are developed will result in less global panic due to peak oil.

The film "Gasland" is a polemic. Suppose you were debating Josh Fox. How would you counter his arguments that hydraulic fracturing is leaching methane into drinking water, killing livestock, polluting streams with dangerous chemicals, causing earthquakes and otherwise despoiling the environment?

Josh Fox argument on methane negative impact on the environment can be countered from a scientific standpoint. During fracturing methane leaks into the surface water but does not present any health risk due to the nature of the gas. Methane is a natural gas that is colorless, tasteless and odorless and it is made of plant and animal waste. As indicated by Fox, methane can be able to enter the groundwater through the industrial process or naturally. Fox is more concerned about the methane gas that finds its way to the groundwater due to fracking.

Health Effects of Methane Gas

Methane is not a health threat at present times because it evaporates out of the water and can only be a health hazard in a confined location. Methane can only cause breathing problems, and the contamination of groundwater does not pose any threat to the humans or the livestock as postulated by Fox. Methane concentration in water that is below 10mg/l is deemed as clean and cannot affect human or animal life. Water treatment can be used to lower methane concentration in drinking water especially for those who depend on wells because the buildup of methane can result in an explosion. Well, vents and ventilation of water catchment areas can significantly help reduce the buildup of methane in areas where it is being mined. High aeration can significantly reduce the concentration of methane which reduces possible experiences of problems that can be caused by high concentrated underground water methane concentration.

Effective and Sustainable Fracking

Fracking has been highly modernized to reduce the use of methane gas which has negative impacts on the environment. Methane has been a public concern for many years because it contributes to global warming. From a cost-benefit standpoint, the leakage of methane has smaller negative impacts to the environment compared to coal. Flaring can significantly reduce the amount of methane released to the environment and will reduce Josh Fox worries and further make methane gas production through fracking more sustainable. Fracking involves the use of separate pipes to vent out methane gas and burn it which prevents it from being released into the atmosphere. Another fracking approach which can reduce Josh Fox worries is the green completion approach which involves capturing the excess methane gas that flows back to the wells in a separating tank. This method allows the separation of gases from the solids during fracking and sending it through a pipeline into tanks that prevents it from being left in the soil underground or released in the environment. Green completion is more effective in controlling methane gas emission compared to the flaring process (Gagnon et al., n.d). Companies can adopt green completion to end the fears of the like of Mr. Fox and ensure continued production of sustainable and cheap energy source in the United States which has a significant economic value.

President Donald Trump has promised to "save" the U.S. coal industry. What are the biggest challenges facing coal production and use? Does clean coal technology hold any promise? If you were advising the President, what policies would you advocate to help America's coal producers?

Coal is a vital source of energy in the USA and has been in use for many centuries in industries as well as electricity generation. There has been growing fears of the negative impacts of coal on the environment, and many environmental lobby groups have advocated for the use of alternative energy sources instead of coal (Popa et al. 22). Readily availability of coal in sustainable amounts makes it a more economically viable source of energy for many and the dilemma of its impact on the environment continues to affect many.

Challenges Facing Coal Production and Use In USA

Declining Production and Demand

The production and demand of coal have been on a decline due to the emergence of other environmentally friendly and less costly energy sources. As the demand decrease, the production of coal will continue to face significant adverse economic effects. Despite the vast coal deposits in the USA the use of coal is increasingly diminishing as industries, and other consumers of energy prefer more environmentally friendly sources of energy over coals which have been associated with climate change by causing global warming (Tierney 36). Coal powered power plants have been a significant consumer of the coal used in the USA. Besides, the use of coal in the steel industry has also been behind the high economic viability of coal. However, the introduction of wind, solar and water-based source of energy has significantly reduced the need for fuel-operated power plants. Besides, the demand for steel has declined globally which makes coal lose one of its vital usages in the history of America.

Shale Gas Revolution and Environmental Impacts of Coal

The US production of natural gas domestically in the last decade has drastically increased which has increased pressure on coal companies to maintain production capacity since most of their previous markets have been taken up by the use of natural gas. The production of gas continues to rise whereas the production of coal decline which is evidence in research showing a significant decline in coal production and the increase in natural gas production between 2008 and 2015. Besides, air pollution, mining waste disposal, and land subsidence are critical environmental challenges that face the production of coal (Tierney 54). People are becoming more environmentally conscious due to climate change and has significantly declined the interest and use of coal at both domestic and industrial level.

Clean Coal Technology

Clean coal technology is one of the approaches which can be used to redeem the declining coal mining in the USA. The clean coal technology can help the coal miners to comply with the clean power strategy and has been adopted by some miners. Clean coal technology is the future of the coal industry and can help restore coal mining as a significant economic activity and increase job opportunities (Popa et al., 66). However, a small number of organizations have adopted the clean coal technology as of today. Clean coal technology means that over-reliance of natural gas in the future can be reduced by increasing the mining of coal which is a lot concerning quantity even for future generations.

Policies to help America's Coal Producers

Policies can be used to regulate the coal production and producers to help reduce its negative environmental impact which can lead to the sustainable production of coal. Policies should be passed requiring all producers to use clean coal technology and rewarding the producers using clean coal technology with incentives and tax holidays to promote the coal production sustainability. Government regulation and policy should focus on the environmental problem which will solve other problems and restore coal as a significant source of power in the country. The policy should focus on rewarding organizations shifting towards clean coal technology which will increase the number of producers using the technology and can significantly restore the demand of coal which has significantly been affected by the availability of natural gas.

His October 2 presentation, Todd Onderdonk of ExxonMobil discussed the long-term energy outlook for both the U.S. and the world. Based on his (Exxon's) projections as well as your understanding of energy markets, what do you think the energy mix will look like both here and around the world in the year 2040? Explain fully.

The energy industry is p...

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