In 2016, the United States oil and gas industry caused health effects of $77 billion, according to a recently published report.
This new study is one of the few to quantify how oil and gas production affects the quality of the air, human wellness, and healthcare expenses without even accounting for real fossil fuel use.
“Air contamination and the medical impacts of the oil and gas industry in the United States” is the title of the study.
It was led by the Environmental Defence Fund, PSE Healthy Energy, the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment, and Boston University School of Public Health. It was printed in the Environmental Research: Health magazine.
The researchers looked at the effects of ozone, small particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide on air quality and human health in the US oil and gas industry in 2016. They contrasted this effect with the resulting methane emissions.
According to the study’s abstract, air pollution from the oil and gas industry in 2016 caused 410,000 cases of asthma flare-ups, 2,200 additional cases of children with asthma, 7,500 extra deaths, and $77 billion in overall health effects in the US. The biggest contributor to health effects was NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), which was followed in order by ozone (35%), and PM2.5 (28%).
These air quality adverse health effects of oil and gas manufacturing outweighed predicted costs of methane leakage’s climate impact by a ratio of three when they were quantified.
The majority of the impacts were focused in states that produce a lot of oil and gas, like Texas, eastern Colorado, and southwestern Pennsylvania. However, the health impacts also affected heavily populated areas such as Chicago, New York City, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Orlando, which had little to no gas activity.
Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Louisiana were the five states with the highest environmental effects from oil and gas production; all of these states have major oil and gas activity. Nevertheless, despite having barely any oil and gas production, Illinois and New York took sixth and eighth place, respectively. State boundaries are not respected by pollution.
Although Texas ranked first in both categories, Saravanan Arunachalam, a research professor at the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment, said:
“States having the highest emissions do not necessarily have the highest risk to their residents’ health from these emissions.”
Texas leads the world in the production of wind and solar energy, but the state’s legislature intends to stifle the state’s burgeoning renewable energy industry and subsidise fossil fuels with fresh legislation recently passed by the state senate. These laws will be passed since Texas’s governor vehemently supports fossil fuels. And that will ensure greater energy costs for customers and more natural gas use-related emissions. (And the main source of failure during Texas’ major blackout in the winter of 2021) was natural gas.)
Any legislature should not move in the path Texas is currently going. To safeguard people and the environment, each state in the US should be working to cut emissions by converting to renewable energy.
The study’s findings indicate that initiatives to reduce oil and gas emissions, like the EPA’s upcoming methane rules, might have an immediate and large positive impact on air quality and the environment.
Ananya Roy, senior health scientist at Environmental Defence Fund and co-author of the study, stated that:
Reducing oil and gas emissions is one of the quickest and most economical ways to lower methane and other air pollutants, which enhances air quality, safeguards human health, and slows climate change.
The US EPA must enhance and complete the draught oil and gas methane standards as soon as practicable.
In order to reduce pollution from the practise of routine flaring, these proposed regulations should rely on innovative state strategies in Colorado and New Mexico and extend even farther.