Energy on the cheap

By Dave Armstrong - 10 Dec 2013 16:35:0 GMT
Energy on the cheap

If only humans could produce such beauty at a geyser as these bacteria, surrounded by pristine forest and blue sky. They don’t, of course, but we sure have to try! - geyser image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The uses of fossil fuels vary from energy requirements to plastics manufacture. The one interminable problem is the hydrocarbon emissions and other products that appear as the molecules are bent to our needs, or are used to extract them.

If you ask the Uzbeks why they dislike the Tadzhiks, they will reply that they don’t, but the hydrofluoric acid that flies over the border is a virulent cause of human misery and inter-state friction. In that case, the acid is produced when aluminium is smelted using outdated methods, but the commonest use is in fracking or other gas and oil extractions. We wrote about this in such as the Dire Pollution in Central Asia article but the substance is actually quoted as making the processes safer in a vain effort to persuade gullible locals that oil companies have their interests at heart.

The vapour and the liquid of HF belie its short formula. The untold number of human miseries it causes are best shown by looking at its effect on stone or glass. Bone, skin or lung tissue are most prone to its dissolving effect. No wonder even a breath of the vapour can be fatal. 131 accidents have been reported within the last 3 years, so safety may be of less consequence than it should be. Public health authorities advise that mass public casualties could also result if that gas escapes, as has happened in Uzbekistan. In the US alone, Houston, Memphis and Philadelphia are particularly liable to fluoride release, with 16 million within the reach of the loose HF.

Radon gas is regarded as a natural product of the earth’s rocks. Released after fracking, however, it dissolves in groundwater and adds to the normal household’s low levels. It is so carcinogenic that current shale gas supplies carrying high concentrations of it to US cities will raise it above the 2nd most carcinogenic substance for the public after tobacco smoke.

Also involved in fracking products is ordinary silica, the oxide of silicon, otherwise known as sand. Those who understand silicosis will know the tiny particles are highly carcinogenic. Many fracking sites are far above the safety threshold, even when wearing a mask! In an extra measure, the latest fracking techniques use much more silica dust than before.

Mercury, the liquid metal, and volatile gas, too, has nothing to do with coal use, you would think. As the neurotoxin that created all the original “Mad Hatters,” and severe mental retardation in children and neonates, however, its major source is coal-fired power plants. Good luck, Poland and China with your new generation capacity! We can expect more deep-sea Pacific fish to be contaminated from the Asian continent now, too. With 16% of US women alone carrying high blood mercury levels, a third of a million children over all nations are now born from similar ladies with similar dangerous developmental regimes (inside them) for their child.

Hydrocarbons including the disregarded preservative, formaldehyde, HCHO, have already been documented extensively as damaging by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer.) They are rarely documented as used in the oil industry, but waste emissions contain large concentrations in places such as Texas and Brazil.

If you want to end up as a preserved specimen, formaldehyde can be very useful ! Along with the prime carcinogen, benzene, C6H6, you could almost guarantee health problems in your family if you live anywhere near any of the fossil-fuel-burning power stations or fracking operations. They all produce these dangers along with the dust (pet-coke) and gas (SO2, NOx) emissions we have heard about, since what seems like time immemorial. The memorial to you will be higher emissions, higher dust, higher gas concentrations, unless of course we persuade these industries to slowly simply shut down!