There is a great debate going on all around the world today about whether or not countries should drill for oil in protected areas in order to reduce the price of gas. While the debate gets very heated, the reality is that there should be no debate at all. Protected areas are protected for a reason and no oil drilling should be allowed in those areas under any circumstances.
The Meaning and Purpose of Protected Areas
Protected wildlife or natural areas have been designated all around the world to preserve the natural eco-system of the world and to prevent human expansion that could destroy the ecology of the planet. Many of these natural areas were carefully selected, as well, based on the specific flora and fauna that inhabit them. The Redwood National and State Forest in the state of California in the United States, for example, was protected as of 1968 when the park was formed. This is the last vestige of the amazing old-growth redwood tree and is protected to prevent those trees from being wiped off of the face of the earth.
Pollution and Disruption
Similar areas around the world are designed to protect endangered animal and plant species and to provide everyday people with a learning opportunity when they go to visit. If oil drilling is allowed in any of these protected areas, the entire purpose of the designation as a protected area will be lost. Oil drilling means clearing entire areas of the natural wildlife. It means more human and vehicle traffic. And it means a great deal of noise. All of this could cause animals to become disoriented and flee, putting the eco-system out of balance and causing irreparable damage.
Expansive Ecological Impact
The other issue with oil drilling is that it is not isolated to the locations of the oil drills and rigs. The oil must be transported from the region. This is often accomplished either by trucking it out or by building an oil pipeline. Trucking it out means building wide roads through the protected areas and lands. This, again, will cause damage to the ecosystem and lead to the deaths of many old-growth trees, plants, and animals. The trucks themselves produce a great deal of noise and air pollution as well which will, again, cause serious damage to the delicate natural balance of the region.
Drilling for oil also comes with a great deal of inherent risk to the area in which the drilling is taking place. Water contamination by way of the pollutants and by-products of oil drilling is practically a given any time oil is drilled in a region. While a company may make efforts to contain the waste water created through running oil drilling machinery and processing crude oil, this does not prevent that water from soaking into the soil and getting into ground water supplies. There is also no guarantee that companies will even try to prevent that wastewater from contaminating nearby lakes, rivers, and streams, making them unsuitable for drinking or sustaining fish and other life.
Oil Spill Risks
And, of course, there is the risk that the oil drilling and transportation process through protected areas will cause oil spills in the region. In fact, the reality of the drilling process is that oil spills are basically inevitable. Experts estimate that around 70 oil spills occur every day in the United States alone. While these spills are usually small and can be contained, they still have an impact. Big spills too are inevitable and do happen more frequently than most people know. Large spills can wipe out the wildlife and eco-system for miles upon miles and can take years or centuries to recover from. Even then, much of the wildlife that once inhabited the area has been destroyed and cannot come back, especially if the species is endangered or can only inhabit that region.
With all of these factors in mind, it is easy to see why there should be no drilling for oil in protected areas to reduce gas prices. There are alternative options to increased oil drilling and the destruction of protected natural areas including finding and developing alternative and renewable energy sources. Under no circumstances should countries be allowed to drill for oil in any protected area.