It is in no doubt that with increasing population and industrial development, the United States energy requirements continue to grow. While the United States has historically been a great user of renewable sources of energy such as hydropower, in the 19th century the use of non renewable sources of energy especially hydrocarbons such as coal and oil has increased. It has to be asserted that the extraction of energy whether it be renewable or non renewable has both positive and negative effects. There are also risks and benefits which accrue from the extraction of either form of energy. The wetlands of the US Gulf Coast provide one of the most important sources of both renewable energy and non renewable energy. The Gulf Coast has one of the nation’s most productive oil and gas fields. The Gulf Coast has a lot of wetlands which have marshland vegetation making the area good for the production of biodiesel from the woody wastes of wetland vegetation.
The extraction of hydrocarbons has had a positive as well as a negative impact on the Gulf Coast. The extraction of oil and gas on the deepwater and on land oil rigs has resulted into the changing of the ecosystem of the wetlands. The prolonged extraction of gas and oil has been proved to result into reduced reservoir pressures since a lot of oil and gas is pumped out of the ground. Another important effect of oil and gas extraction resulting from this extraction of oil and gas is the reactivation of fault lines which result in the loss of wetlands. The reactivation of fault lines acts in opening fissures in the ground resulting in water seeping into the ground resulting in wetlands becoming drained. The loss of these wetlands means that ecosystems are destroyed disrupting food chains in the Gulf Coast. On the other hand the extraction of oil and gas has the positive effect on the Gulf Coast economy. The economies of the Gulf Coast wetlands being mostly non arable rely to a great deal on the income from oil and gas for their economic development. Major towns and communities of the wetlands of the Gulf Coast thus depend on the oil and gas industry for jobs and for their energy needs.
On the other hand the Gulf Coast marshlands also produce renewable energy from the ecosystem. The renewable energy from the Gulf wetland is biodiesel which is extracted from the digestion of wetland woody waste. The extraction of the woodland wastage in order to make biodiesels is of benefit to the communities and the economy of the Gulf Coast marshlands since it provides an alternative source of energy rather than hydrocarbons. The use of biodiesel is important in that it provides clean energy in that it is biodegradable. It is also beneficial in that it offers a means of the regeneration of wetland by removing waste thereby offering space for new growth. On the other hand this may have a negative effect since the use of biodiesels as a renewable source of energy results in overexploitation of the wetlands. There is a high risk that with the insistence on non renewable energy, the wetland vegetation is at high risk of depletion on the altar of environmental conservation. The use of renewable energy is of benefit to the Gulf Coast marshlands since their exploitation is normally accompanied by policies of environmental conservation. These policies are therefore likely to result in restoration of the ecosystem that has been destroyed by hydrocarbon extraction.
The Gulf Coast Marshlands are one of the most important yet fragile ecosystems in the United States. In order to fully exploit the region, it is important that risk and benefit analysis is conducted in order to ensure that the region does not lose its ecosystem due to extraction of energy. It is thus important that policies of renewable and non renewable energy are streamlined in order to ensure they protect the ecosystem of the Gulf marshlands.