How Fossil Fuels Are Formed


Our nation's dependence on fossil fuels disproportionately impacts the poor and communities of color at all phases of energy production, from extraction to refining to the resulting global climate change. We will inevitably be forced to seek alternative sources of energy anyway since fossil fuels are running out, but in the mean time we are causing greater and greater harm.


For these reasons, Unitarian Universalists call for an end to fossil fuel dependency and for seeking alternative energy sources now.


Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining


50% of U.S. electricity comes from the burning of coal. There are varying grades of coal with older coal proving more energy when burned. In the U.S., most of the older, better grade coal has already been mined out via conventional mining methods. This leaves only the lower-grade coal, which produces less energy by volume, generates more carbon emissions, and is harder to mine. Instead of seeking an alternative to coal, our "solution" has been mountaintop removal coal mining. More than likely,the electricity that powers your home is linked to this devastating practice.


In 2006, the Unitarian Universalist Association passed an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) called, "End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining."


Physical Impact


Mountaintop removal coal mining does exactly what it says, removing entire mountaintops in order to extract the coal within. There are less invasive ways to mine but mountaintop removal is the cheapest and thus most profitable. In addition, when entire mountaintops are removed, the debris must go somewhere so mining companies have dumped it into nearby streams. In Appalachia, over 500 square miles of mountain ranges have been destroyed and close to 2000 miles of streams have been buried by mountaintop removal coal mining. It took over 300 million years to make the Appalachian mountains. Mountaintop removal coal mining can destroy a mountain and its ecosystem in just one year.


Social Injustice


While the rest of the United States benefits from the cheap coal and thus electricity, the environment, economy and culture of Appalachia is being ruined. Already a poorer area for historical reasons, the massive export of cheap coal for the benefit of the rest of the nation and at the expense of Appalachia perpetuates inequity across generations. While the energy gained is fleeting, the destruction is permanent.


Take Action




Find out whether your district uses mountaintop removal mined coal, and if so, tell them that you want them to stop. You can do both




Urge your senators to support the Appalachian Restoration Act.


Urge your representative to co-sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R.1310). (This same form will send an email to your senators as well.)




Worship Resources containing prayers and sermon starter ideas, fromthe National Council of Churches


Prayers for the Mountains, from


Earth Hour Energy Meditation (PDF)
Originally created for Earth Hour, this is a Unitarian Universalist Association-guided meditation on energy and our interdependent connections.


Webinar on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, from the National Council of Churches


Sierra Club: Coal Country
Look inside modern coal mining. Get to know working miners along with activists who are battling coal companies in Appalachia.


The High Cost of Coal


Mountain Heroes: Our Stories



Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking


Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a process of drilling for natural gas trapped in shale rock. A deep well is drilled into shale deposits and millions of gallons of water and a chemical cocktail are pressure-injected to fracture the rock and release the gas, which then flows back up via the same well.


Physical Impact


It takes up to eight million gallons of water each time a well is fracked. Approximately 40,000 gallons of a toxic chemical cocktail is injected into the ground along with the water during each frack. The resulting waste fluid is left in open air pits to evaporate, releasing harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere. However, 50-70% of the fluid used is not recovered but instead left in the ground. Both the toxic chemicals and resulting methane gas leach out and contaminate nearby groundwater.


Social Injustice


Methane concentrations are seventeen times higher in drinking-water wells near fracking than in other wells. The people who live nearby drink from these wells. There have been documented cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to drinking contaminated water. Fracking disproportionately affects rural and poorer areas. It is unjust that a smaller group of people suffer health consequences from fracking so that the rest of us can benefit from the natural gas.


Take Action


People from across the country are converging in Washington, DC on July 28th to tell Congress to Stop the Frack Attack!


Currently water exposed to fracking is exempt from our Clean Water Act.Contact your elected officials and tell them to keep fracking toxics out of your drinking water.


Hydraulic Fracturing 101


The Dangers of Fracking


Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way


Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox arrested after attempting to film a public House Committee hearing on fracking



Tar Sands Oil "Development"


Tars sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water, and a dark, dense, smelly, extremely viscous form of petroleum technically named bitumen but colloquially referred to as tar. Hence the name, tar sands. In order to use tar sands "oil," it needs to be mined or forced via steam-injection from the ground, separated from the sand, clay and water, and then refined. Thus, unlike conventional oil, tar sands oil requires massive quantities of natural gas (to power the extraction process) and water (which is then contaminated). The process used to be considered too costly but as the world's conventional oil supplies are depleted, "developers" are increasingly turning to tar sands to fill our oil needs.


Physical Impact


Alberta, Canada's tar sands sit below one of the world's largest remaining arboreal forests, near the breeding grounds of endangered birds, in an area the size of the state of Florida or the country of England. Even the industry admits that the land will never recover from the strip mining and/or steam-injection extraction process. Tar sands "development" uses more water than city of 2 million people. The contaminated waste water is stored in artificial ponds so huge that they can be seen from space, and leaks poison surrounding drinking water. In 2007, tar sands "development" used 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Much of that natural gas was derived via fracking, with its own severe environmental consequences. Tar sands "development" generates 36 million tons of CO2 per day, as much green house per day as 1.3 million cars. If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, these numbers will grow exponentially larger.


Social Injustice


"The cultural heritage, land, ecosystems and human health of First Nation communities including the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay Cree Nation, Beaver Lake Cree First Nation Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, and the Metis, are being sacrificed for oil money in what has been termed a 'slow industrial genocide.' Infrastructure projects linked to the tar sands expansion such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, threaten First Nation communities in British Columbia, Canada and American Indian communities throughout the United States. Community resistance is growing and Indigenous peoples throughout North America have mounted substantive challenges to tar sands expansion."

from Indigenous Environmental Network Tar Sands Campaign


Take Action


Join Tar Sands Action



Unitarian Universalist Clergy Join Religious Leaders for Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day


15 UUs arrested during Tar Sands Action


Tar Sands Action inspired by a UU's civil disobedience


About Tar Sands


Indigenous Environmental Network


Deepwater Oil Drilling


The oil in our earth was created 300 to 400 million years ago. In the span of 200 years since the Industrial Revolution, we have used up most all of the oil that is easy to access, driving us to drill in ever harder to reach places, such as the Arctic or in deep water. By definition any drilling deeper than 500 feet is considered "deepwater" but some rigs go as far as 10,000 feet (or 3 kilometers).


Physical Impact


In addition to the greenhouse gas pollution from our reliance on oil, deepwater drilling poses two specific problems:


  1. Due to intense water pressure under such extreme depths it is difficult to respond when something goes wrong. After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in May 2010 it took three months to cap the gushing geyser. As a result, up to 4.9 million barrels or 210 million gallons of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico.

  2. Due to such extreme depths, oil "spills" cover a much bigger area by the time they reach the surface. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, scientists reported immense underwater plumes of oil below the surface, as well as an 80-square-mile (210 km²) "kill zone" surrounding the blown well, killing fish, shellfish, birds, dolphins and whales. Oil polluted coastlines of four U.S. states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.


Social Injustice


Generations of families in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have supported themselves by harvesting the rich sea life in the Gulf - fish, shrimp, crabs and oysters. Somewhere between 35 to 40% of these fisheries were forced closed due to deepwater oil "spill." The estimated loss to the fishing industry was around $2.5 billion. Bluefin tuna populations had already been in decline when 20% of the juvenile bluefin tuna were killed by oil poisoning the Gulf's most important spawning area. The tourism industry, upon which other Gulf Coast families rely, was also badly hurt. Prolonged exposure to the toxic mixture of petroleum and dispersants (used to "clean" the spill) has resulted in numerous illnesses. Yet again, a smaller group of people pay the price so that the rest of us can continue our addiction to oil. It is time to shift our economy away from oil towards more sustainable sources of energy.


Take Action


As long as we depend on oil we risk bigger and bigger ecological disasters. Tell Congress to End Tax Breaks for Oil Companies




Worship Web: worship materials for Ecological Disasters


Seeking God's Grace for the Gulf, worship resources from the National Council of Churches


Deepwater Oil Rigs Drilling Ever Deeper


Forum Activity

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative