Oil and the Environment


The effects that oil use has on the environment take many different forms. Some are accidents that result in local contamination. Some are intrinsic to the processes of exploration, drilling and production. Probably the most important effect that oil use has on the environment is the vast amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere, resulting in global warming.


Our use of petroleum has produced the following environmental issues:

  • The massive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by millions of cars, trucks, and airplanes using gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and other liquid petroleum products is probably a major factor in global warming.

  • Gasoline, diesel and other petroleum derivatives contribute to atmospheric pollution from sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.

  • Oil spills are an ongoing challenge in the extraction and transportation of oil. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates the potential devastation that can occur,

  • Waste disposal of hazardous by-products of petroleum refining and disposal of the final products after use is a significant environmental challenge.

  • Petroleum products can be flammable or toxic. Careful handling is required to ensure safety.