Don’t Do Business With Banks with Energy Loans

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The environment is being destroyed in a thousand different ways as you read this. 

Between the time the sun rises and sets today, we will have lost over 230 square miles of forests worldwide. Gold mining in the Amazon River Basin is driving species to the brink of extinction, and toxic chemicals in the ocean are killing coral reefs. 

If the breakneck speed of environmental devastation has you more than a little worried, it’s probably time to pull your money out of your traditional bank. Then, you can put it in one that doesn’t fund ecologically unfriendly fossil fuel companies. 

One way a bank profits off your deposits is by making loans. Conventional banks typically lend money to any individual or company it doesn’t consider a financial risk, regardless of their impact on the environment. 

On the other hand, environmentally conscious financial institutions won’t lend money to companies engaged in harmful environmental practices, such as drilling in the Arctic.  

How does the fossil fuel industry hurt the environment? 

Natural gas 

For over 100 years, fossil fuels have powered the meteoric rise of our industrial civilization. Currently, a whopping 80% of our energy needs are met with natural gas, oil, and coal.

Most natural gas is present in porous rock beds or oil reservoirs and is obtainable using standard drilling methods. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is used for natural gas that’s too difficult to extract this way. 

Fracking has helped make the US the world’s top producer and biggest consumer of natural gas. Unfortunately, fracking is also significantly contributing to air and water pollution. 

The fracking process 

Fracking involves smashing rock holding natural gas deposits with millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand. The pressures are strong enough to break through stone, allowing the natural gas to escape.

Companies drill vertical wellbores thousands of feet into the earth to set up for fracking, penetrating rock-hard sediment layers, the water table, and shale rock formations. Then, they install a horizontal cement casing that acts as a channel for all the fracking fluid, water, chemicals, and sand the method requires. 

Each well can be fracked up to 20 times. Since a single extraction might use up to eight million gallons of water and over 40,000 gallons of chemicals, a tanker truck might make over 2,000 trips. All this industrial activity has catastrophic environmental consequences. 

Fracking’s harmful effects 

Unfortunately, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means there aren’t as many regulations to govern this practice as there should be. 

A byproduct of fracking is methane gas, one of the worst carbon emissions contributing to catastrophic climate change. In fact, methane is 25 times more effective in trapping atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. 

A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that 4% of the methane produced by fracking wells ends up in the air. This is equivalent to the carbon emissions of approximately three million automobiles! 

Besides methane, fracking releases other contaminants, including: 

  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Particulate matter and dust
  • Ground-level ozone (smog)
  • Nitrogen oxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Crystalline silica 

Exposure to these pollutants has been known to cause cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders, and birth defects. Crystalline silica from the sand used in fracking can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) collected air samples from 11 fracking sites around the US. Every site exceeded occupational health standards for exposure to respirable crystalline silica. 

In some of the samples, silica concentrations exceeded acceptable limits by a factor of 10. This means that workers wearing industry-standard respiratory equipment won’t be adequately protected.

The air quality near fracking sites is worse than LA’s, with ozone levels of 124 parts per billion or more. Los Angeles only has ozone levels of approximately 124 parts per billion, even on its worst day. 

Coal 

Companies burn coal to generate electricity or heat and liquefy it to produce gasoline and diesel. Coal begins its life as plant matter trapped underground for millions of years. Over time, it becomes petrified due to a lack of air.

Coal can be extracted using heavy machinery to remove ore from deep underground deposits or strip mining. This latter process peels away surface layers of rock and soil to get at the deposits below. Strip mining accounts for approximately two-thirds of all coal sourced in the US. 

Both forms of mining have devastating environmental impacts. However, strip mining is the more destructive of the two. 

Coal mining’s harmful effects 

Like fracking, coal mining causes high levels of methane to be released into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming and the ozone layer’s destruction. Coal combustion also discharges carbon dioxide into the air, a potent greenhouse gas. 

Coal combustion produces lots of carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Coal waste contains heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead, which are toxic.

Coal dust can be life-threatening if inhaled over a long period because it causes “black lung disease.” If left untreated, this illness leads to heart failure, pulmonary tuberculosis, and lung cancer. 

The decline of coal-fired power plants

The good news is that these days, coal accounts for less than one-third of all US electricity generation, down from more than 50% in 2008. 

Coal-powered plants continue to shut down as this energy production method becomes a thing of the past. Future coal demand is expected to remain flat or even fall as market forces make clean energy more appealing. 

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The problems with fossil fuels don’t stop there

Destroying ecosystems  

The fossil fuel industry requires large amounts of land to build needed infrastructure, such as wells, pipelines, and access roads. It also needs facilities for processing, waste storage, and waste disposal. 

Building all these structures takes a catastrophic toll on ecosystems. Companies that engage in strip mining blast away forests and mountaintops to expose underground oil and coal reserves. Land that has been destroyed will never return to the way it once was. 

This means that critical wildlife habitat, which is land used for breeding and migration, is lost forever. Animals fleeing these environmental horrors often find themselves in vastly inferior habitats to those they left.  

Water pollution

Fossil fuel extraction poisons waterways and groundwater and causes harmful acid runoff to flow into lakes, rivers, and streams. 

Mining operations produce lots of wastewater which often contains heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other health-destroying contaminants. Companies store all this waste in open-air pits or underground wells that can leak. 

This could pollute aquifers crucial to life with contaminants that cause neurological damage, cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses. 

Ocean acidification

Acidification is a grave threat to oceans, waterways, and estuaries. The problem grows in magnitude every year as carbon dioxide continues to be discharged into the air at record high levels. 

Since the eighteenth century, the ocean has absorbed approximately one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity. Estimates of future carbon dioxide levels show that the seas could be almost 150% more acidic by the end of this century. This would result in pH levels the ocean hasn’t seen in over 20 million years.

The good news is that the ocean absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere helps regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The bad news is that acidification isn’t good for marine wildlife. That’s because it decreases the total amount of calcium carbonate in the ocean, which is what the shells of oysters and clams are composed of.  

Help create a renewable energy future with Aspiration 

If we want to prevent our planet’s fragile ecosystem from collapsing, we must relegate fossil fuel use to the dustbin of history. To do this, there needs to be a seismic shift in the banking industry that involves defunding companies that accelerate climate change and funding enterprises helping to reduce it. 

Cash doesn’t just sit passively in our accounts — it’s invested, and conventional banks continue to pour billions into the fossil fuel industry. At Aspiration, we’ll never use your deposits to finance projects that cause environmental destruction. 

We’re passionately committed to doing what’s best for our customers and the planet. By choosing to do your banking with us, you can spend, save, and invest with a clear conscience. 

See what we can do for you today! 

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