Oil and gas drilling affected about seven million of acres of U.S. agriculture and rangeland between 2000 and 2012, according to a study last month in the journal Science.
The rough equivalent of three Yellowstone National Parks “was given over to well pads and related roads. About half of the acreage was rangeland, and roughly another 40% was cropland, and 10% forestland. A very small amount was wetland,” Midwest Energy News reported.
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“The researchers calculated that crop production lost due to drilling amounted to 130 million bushels of wheat, about 6% of the wheat produced in 2013 in the region under study.”
Land clearance for drilling destroyed enough forage to feed seven million animals for a month, and drilling diminished the land’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
Development of a single new oil and gas well may only destroy about 10 acres of vegetation; the problem is that the U.S. oil and gas industry is drilling about 50,000 new wells per year.
“The point we’re trying to make with this paper is not so much that some huge fraction of current land area has been de-vegetated, as much as the trajectory of drilling, (consuming) a half-million acres per year,” said study co-author Steve Running of the University of Montana. “If we continue that to 2050, you get to some seriously big amounts of land.”
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