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The true cost of cheap oil

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Decline in gas prices excites consumers, but environmental concerns should be considered

Quick Trip clerk Roxana Valverde adjusts the gas price sign numbers at a QT convenient store in Tolleson, Arizona. Gas prices continue to tumble nationwide. (Ross D. Franklin | AP)

Quick Trip clerk Roxana Valverde adjusts the gas price sign numbers at a QT convenient store in Tolleson, Arizona. Gas prices continue to tumble nationwide. (Ross D. Franklin | AP)

Starting Dec. 31, 2014 gas prices were in decline for 96 days. While this may seem wonderful for the average consumer, there are alarmingly few sources questioning the harmful effects of such a steep decline in oil prices. What we save in money we are likely to lose elsewhere. Low gas prices may be ideal for commuters, but the true effects of cheap oil could take years to comprehend, and by then it may be far too late.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of injecting water into the ground at a high pressure to fracture the shale rocks underneath and release the natural oil. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year.”

The fracking process also uses hundreds of toxic chemicals, many of which are carcinogens, to get the job done. Fracking has been a major cause of groundwater contamination, lake contamination and the contamination of once-fertile soil. Fracking is a direct threat to the future prosperity of our planet, placing the future of the human race in jeopardy.

The dangers of the extraction process combined with ignorance of the cheap oil’s effects only prove that the direction we are heading toward is one to be feared. If fracking is not enough to scare people away from the gas tank, the media’s inability to address the flaws associated with cheap oil should. “Fill ’er up! Missouri’s gasoline prices are the lowest in the country,” a headline from the the Kansas City Star, exemplified why people remain ignorant to the situation at hand.

The excitement of cheap gas has pushed sustainability and environmental consciousness to the side indefinitely. Although being less dependent on foreign oil is a monumental step for the United States, the goal should be for us to become less dependent on oil altogether.

Fracking is a direct threat to the  A gallon of regular unleaded gas was advertised at $1.99 at Fuel City future prosperity of our planet, on Dec. 12, 2014 in Dallas. (Andy Jacobsohn | Tribune News Service)

Fracking is a direct threat to the
A gallon of regular unleaded gas was advertised at $1.99 at Fuel City future prosperity of our planet, on Dec. 12, 2014 in Dallas. (Andy Jacobsohn | Tribune News Service)

Since the decline of gas prices began, the purchase of gas, gas-guzzling trucks and SUV’s has increased drastically. People are driving more frequently and more irresponsibly. According to the Guardian, “Four of the top five sellers in November were pickup trucks or SUVs, including the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado.” The push for green energy in the media has been abandoned and replaced with the push for cheap oil.

The low cost of oil not only poses a threat environmentally, but economically, as well. There is no denying the existence of the current benefits of low gas prices, especially in regard to the boom of the car industry. But ultimately these benefits will run their course.

When gas prices stabilize above the $3 mark, there will be millions of people with cars they can no longer afford to drive. Columnist Rachel Marsden said that these low oil prices “could be a Trojan Horse for America,” effectively jeopardizing our relations with China through our efforts to stunt the growth of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia.

It is easy to remain ignorant and enjoy the bounty of cheap gas, but the bottom line is that we are going to have to answer for it eventually. A healthy environment is necessary for our survival. While buying a gas guzzling SUV or taking a road trip might seem harmless, we cannot neglect to think about the destination of the catastrophic path we are blazing. And if we continue down this road of blissful ignorance, our fiscal well-being will vanish alongside the health of our Earth and our integrity.

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The true cost of cheap oil