Opinions

Shale drillers in Texas need to stop “flaring” gas into the atmosphere

In order to remove excess gas from oil drilling, shale drillers have been resorting to burning natural gas in wells, also known as “flaring.”

Natural gas — a byproduct of oil extraction — is less valuable than oil, hence the reason oil companies burn natural gas.

Venetta Seals, the mayor of Pecos, Texas, said, “Without the infrastructure being here, the only other solution is what, they stop drilling? That would certainly turn things upside down out here if that were to stop happening.”

To stop burning natural gas would require adding more pipelines or decreasing oil production, which would adversely impact the short-term profits of these oil companies.

Oil production is a lucrative business and a vital source of revenue to energy companies and local economies. Failing to see the big picture of wasting natural gas by flaring may bring forth unexpected consequences.

In some respects, Seals is operating rationally in the interest of her community; oil sells for $69 a barrel whereas natural gas is worth $3 per million British thermal units. Nonetheless, Seals’ projections may be shortsighted.

To understand why, it is important to ask two questions. The first is, how would people feel knowing that energy companies are adding greenhouse gases that impact global temperatures?

Furthermore, how would people living near a flaring zone cope with headaches, dizziness and loss of coordination caused by the release of methane?

Rather than striving for maximum profit margins, the government should start looking into the several long-term consequences flaring gas will have on the public’s health, well-being and the economy.

With more flaring, the environment has been deteriorating. Flaring emits greenhouse gases equivalent to 2 million cars, which exacerbates the effects of global warming.

Aaron Bernstein, a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that even a small global temperature increase could lead to troubling consequences, like rising sea levels, population displacement, disruption to the food supply, flooding and an increase of infectious diseases.

Rising sea levels, as salt water seeps in, contaminates the drinking water supply and adversely impacts human health.

The significance is that the government should look out for the health and well-being of its citizens in order to produce efficient workers and build a better community — this cannot be done without creating a healthy climate.

First of all, the problem is that the state government gives these companies permission to flare. Most oil production businesses resort to burning gas due to the fact that flaring is much more convenient than planning and manufacturing brand new natural gas pipelines.

The simplest way to limit flaring is to heavily tax companies that choose to do so because more companies will most likely decrease the amount of gas they burn. Another solution is to utilize this excess natural gas as an energy source.

Natural gas is used to generate electricity, fuel automobiles, heat water and bake food. It is also used frequently in the manufacturing process to produce glass, steel, cement and many other commodities.

Natural gas vehicles not only emit less pollutants — or greenhouse gases — but they also cost less than vehicles that run on gasoline. Despite the potentially devastating consequences of burning natural gases, there is still room for change.

Governments and individuals should recognize what will benefit them the most in the long run and cooperate to tear down the old tradition of flaring, which leads to nothing but ruin and devastation.

September 13, 2018

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Stacy Kim


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