Renewable Energy: What Does Sustainable Mean & Is It Possible; Yes or No?
Renewable Energy, Is it the alternative?
Right now America and most of the world run on fossil fuel such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are natural resources such as oil and natural gas that come from the earth. Though these sources may be natural, they will run out eventually. 85% of the U.S.’s energy is produced by fossil fuels . 51% of our oil comes from outside sources such as the Middle East. Right now in the U.S. only 2% of the energy is renewable. Not only has the fact that these fossil fuels will run out, the fact that scientist are saying that these fuels have adverse affects on nature have caused a debate over whether we should use alternatives or stay on our current energy policy.
The major crisis that brought this debate into the U.S. was the energy crisis of 1970. This happened when some oil exporting countries in the Middle East stopped selling oil to countries that were supporting Israel’s military campaigns near there region. Since the U.S. was a big supporter of the Israel they did not get oil from these countries. As a result of this embargo there was considerably less oil in the U.S. The government was franticly doing what is could to save fuel such as advertising fuel efficiency and reducing speed limits to increase cars fuel efficiency.
Alternative Energy, the savior of the Earth
The main argument for renewable energy is that we harm the environment as well as the world through our current energy policy of fossil fuels and that we need an independent energy market.
There are many reasons why people support alternative energy and one of them is the fact that oil and natural gas will run out. This one of the most obvious reasons why people say we should switch now instead of waiting till there are no more fossil fuels left on the earth. Supporters say that they want a reliable energy source for the future generation.
Another reason to switch to renewable energy is because fossil fuel causes global warming and pollution. Fossil fuels produce a gas known as CO2 which causes the heat from the sun to stay on the earth instead of diffusing out of the atmosphere. The way that excess co2 is created is by combustion, which is the process which fossil fuels are burned. The heat that stays in causes glacier melting, rising sea levels, more destructive storms, and intense heat waves. Alternative energy such as Fuel cells or wind and solar power don’t require burning anything which means that no by product is produced except water vapor by fuel cells . As of now the United States produces one fourth of the world’s carbon emissions which makes us the leading cause of global warming (Alternative Energy Should Be Pursued). This makes it more the reason to switch to alternative energy.
Most of our oil comes from outside sources such as the Middle East and Venezuela. Most people don’t like this not only because these places harbor anti-American sentiment but also because they can cripple our country by not giving us oil like the crisis of 1970 (Shaw, 2004) (Renewable Energy, 2007). These countries can cripple our economy because if we get less oil it drives the price up which leads to less people buying gas which can even lead to higher prices (Shaw, 2004).
Many critics of renewable energy say that it is expensive while coal is cheap. This is not entirely true because through passing time engineers have developed ways to make renewable energy cheaper then they once were. For example Bloom Energy, a company, has invented a fuel cell that uses fossil fuels to generate power with out producing co2. This happens because they the fuel cell works there is no combustion. This fuel cell also does to not use any precious metal or corrosive material such as other fuel cells. Also wind energy is 4.6 cents KWh (kilowatts an hour). Meanwhile, electricity produced by the installation of a new coal-fired power plant would cost 5 to 6.4 cents kWh, 4 and 5.7 cents kWh in the case of a gas-fired plant, and 4.6 to 6.5 cents kWh in a nuclear facility, according to calculations by UNIPEDE (International Union of Producers and Distribution of Electrical Energy). You can read our article on Bloom Energy for more information.
Alternative Energy, No Way!
Opponents base there claim that renewable energy is not the solution on several facts including, it’s not reliable, it more expensive, and that it can’t compete in the current energy market. They say renewable energy won’t help our economy and it isn’t a good energy source.
Critics say that renewable energy is too expensive. Conventional energy (the one we use now) production costs have come down 22 years to a constant 3cent per KwH while renewable energy costs vary from place to place. Renewable energy gets money from government subsidies and other government investments (Taylor).
Renewable energy also can’t provide energy all the time. Wind and solar power, which are two of the main renewable energy sources, are unreliable because it may not always be windy or sunny. Also it is hard to store these kinds of energies. For example solar power may be easy to harness in the summer but it is very difficult to store the energy in the winter. Finally you can’t use these renewable everywhere, it not very windy everywhere or sunny everywhere.
Since fossil fuels are cheaper it would be hard for renewable energy to compete in the energy market. For example Christine Real de Azua, an analyst at the Wind Energy Association, concedes that “the fact remains that wind energy, while close to being competitive with conventional generating technologies … was still not competitive enough. This shows that even though wind energy is close to the same cost as conventional energy it does not have the potential to survive in the market unless the government intervenes.
Renewable energy isn’t as environmentally friendly as most people think.
Ethanol for example is made of wheat, corn, or sugar cane. For these crops to grow the require lots of fertilizer and heavy duty machinery, both which rely heavily on fossil fuels.
Big hydroelectric dams also destroy ecosystems. One side is heavily flooded while the other does not have enough water. Windmills also kill about a million birds each year (Renewable Energy is economically costly).
Conclusion As To What Does Sustainable Mean
Renewable Energy may not be on everyone’s mind right now but it will be soon. Our world may need a new energy source for the future. People will have to make tough decisions whether they need energy that hurts the environment or one that possibly produces less energy but is much cleaner. Right now people have many things to consider such as war, hunger, and international threats but sooner or later if this crisis is not resolved we may end up with no energy or much polluted world.