GEOL 005 Chapter 3: Geol_5_-_Fossil_fuels_consquences

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17 May 2020

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Geol 5
Earth History
Fossil Fuel Consequences - The Local Environment
Previous lecture
o Fossil fuels have “powered” the development of our modern lifestyle
o But we wont use them forever
o Unique period of time in human history
o Will we “run out”?
o Or will we choose to switch away from them? (expensive? Consequences too severe?)
Consequences of fossil fuel extraction
o Land/ecosystem damage
o Water pollution including:
Acid mine drainage
Contamination by fracking
o Oil spills and socio-political ramifications of oil production
Consequences of combustion
o Acid rain
o Smog
o Global warming global in scale; covered next week
Landscape degradation from coal mining
o Mountaintop in west Virginia stripped apart so we can access
o Good example of mountaintop coal mining ramifications
o Rules for mining; mitigating the effects of coal mining on the lands
Surface mining control act of 1977
Requires that mined land be restored to allow pre-mining use
Prohibits mining on prime agricultural land
Reclamation includes disposing of wastes, contouring the land, replanting
o Mining companies are required to restore after they finish mining
Landscape degradation from oil sands mining
o Regulatory framework for mitigating effects still catching up”
o Would mining oil shales in the western US leave similar destruction
o Don’t have similar regulations as with coal mining
The US has the biggest resource of oil shales in places like Utah and Wyoming
Acid mine drainage
o Sulfur-bearing minerals unearthed by mining come into contact with atmospheric O2
o Red color from iron in form of Fe(OH)3
o There are these minerals dug up in the process of mining (FeS2)
When exposed to oxygen, it reacts very quickly producing H2SO4 (sulfuric acid
very strong acid leading to low PH highly acidic environment)
o H2SO4 is sulfuric acid, which leads to very low pH that:
Damages aquatic environment (many fish, amphibians cannot survive)
Can cause leaching of heavy metals into water supplies
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