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Alternative Energy – Why do we Need it?
Why do we need alternatives?
To answer this question, we must begin by discussing fossil fuels – what they are, where they come from, how they are used, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. In this context, the dire need for alternatives becomes very clear.
What are fossil fuels?
Most fossil fuels are formed from the remains of long-dead animals and plants. Buried over hundreds of millions of years, the carbon-based deposits were transformed over time by heat and pressure into combustible materials such as crude oil, coal, natural gas, oil shale, and tar sands. A small fraction of fossil fuels are a handful of other natural substances that contain carbon but do not come from organic sources.
Producing more fossil fuels requires both the creation of new hydrocarbon-rich soil and a long time. Given the current estimates of fossil fuel reserves around the world, it is unlikely that we can wait out the problem and continue our dependence on fossil fuels until new reserves are created. At current rates of consumption, reserves of oil and coal and other fossil fuels will not last for hundreds of years, let alone hundreds of millions of years.
As for creating more, experts point out that it can take about five centuries to replace an inch of topsoil due to plant decay and rock weathering. Yet in the United States, at least, much of the topsoil has been disturbed by agriculture, leading more experts to the troubling conclusion that in what was once the prairie, agriculture over the past hundred years has destroyed America’s “bread basket.” Half of its topsoil is lost thirty times faster than it can be formed.
Advantages of fossil fuels in energy production
There are many reasons why the world relies on and relies on fossil fuels. For example, burning fossil fuels to generate electricity on strategically centralized parts of the grid and delivering large amounts of electricity to nearby substations has so far been relatively cost-effective; Due to this, electricity is delivered directly to consumers. These large power plants burn gas or coal less efficiently. So much electricity can be lost over long-distance transmission that, when electricity needs to be concentrated more in one region than another, the fuel is usually transported to a distant power plant and burned there. Liquid fuels are particularly easy to transport.
Until now, fossil fuels have been abundant and easily obtained. Worldwide petroleum reserves are estimated to be between 1 and 3.5 trillion barrels. Proved coal reserves at the end of 2005, according to British estimates, were 909,064 million tons worldwide. Coal, moreover, is relatively cheap.
The simplest reason why the world is dependent on fossil fuels is that doing anything else requires change: physical, economic, and—perhaps most difficult—mental. The basic technology for extracting and burning fossil fuels is not only in large power plants but also at the consumer level. Retrofitting factories can be cost-prohibitive, but perhaps even more troublesome is replacing the heating systems in every home, factory and building. However, in the end, the real resistance may be our nature. We humans generally resist change, and especially change that requires us to abandon long-standing traditions, change the way we think and live, and learn new information and practices after generations of being convinced that everything is “okay.” the old way.
Why do we need alternatives?
If there are so many reasons to use fossil fuels, why even consider alternatives? Anyone who has paid the least attention to this problem in the last few decades can probably answer this question. If nothing else, most people can find the first and most obvious reason: fossil fuels are, for all practical purposes, not renewable. At current rates, the world consumes fossil fuels 100,000 times faster than it can produce them. Their demand will outstrip their supply within a century—or even less.
And although technology has made extracting fossil fuels easier and in some cases more cost-effective than ever before, that hasn’t always been the case. As we deplete more readily available oil reserves, new ones must be discovered and tapped. This means locating oil rigs far offshore or in less accessible regions; To drill deeper and deeper into the earth to reach the coal seam, or remove more layers of valuable soil; and making precarious agreements with countries and cartels with whom it may not be in our best political interest to forge such commitments.
Finally, dependence on fossil fuels involves human and environmental costs. Drilling for oil, tunneling coal mines, transporting volatile liquids and explosive gases – all can lead to tragic accidents, destroying acres of ocean, coastline and land, killing people as well as wildlife and plant life. Even when properly extracted and handled, fossil fuels have an impact on the environment, as the combustion process releases many pollutants, including sulfur dioxide—a major component of acid rain. When another common emission, carbon dioxide, is released into the atmosphere, it contributes to the “greenhouse effect,” in which the atmosphere captures and reflects back energy from the Earth’s surface rather than releasing it back into space. Scientists agree that this has led to global warming, with average temperatures rising more than could be predicted from past patterns. This affects everything from weather patterns to the stability of the polar ice caps.
Clearly, something must change. However, as with many complex problems, the solution to the world’s ever-increasing appetite for more energy will not be as simple as abandoning all old ways and beliefs and embracing new ones overnight. Partly it’s a matter of practicality—the weaning process requires a huge investment of money, education, and most of all, time. The main reason, however, is that there is no perfect alternative energy source. An option is not an option.
What needs to change?
It seems simplistic to say that what really needs to change is our attitude, but in reality the basis of a sound energy plan comes down to the inescapable fact that we must change the way we think about this issue. In the old example, we looked for ways to provide large amounts of electricity and distribute it to end users, knowing that much would be lost in transmission, but the benefits would also be great: power plants could be located away from residential areas. , fuel could be delivered centrally, and for consumers, the obvious bonus was convenience. For the most part our only personal connection to the process is calling heating fuel and electricity suppliers and pulling up to pumps at gas stations. And we will think about the problem only when the prices rise significantly or the power goes out.
There are those who try to convince us that there is no problem, and those tree-hugging Chicken Littles who talk about renewable and alternative energy want us all to go back to nature. The motivations of these skeptics to perpetuate this myth fall into one of two categories: one, they fear what they don’t understand and are resistant to being told what to do, or two, they have some political or financial involvement. Enabling our fossil-fuel addiction. (And sometimes both.)
The fact is that unless we change our way of thinking, there will not be one big change but many small changes. A comprehensive and successful energy plan must include:
- Supplementing the energy produced in existing power plants with alternative energy sources and converting some of those plants to run on different “feedstocks” (fuels).
- Moving away from complete reliance on a few concentrated energy production facilities to adding many new and alternative sources, some feeding into existing “grids” and some supplying local or even individual needs.
- To provide practical, economical and convenient ways for consumers—residential, commercial users, everyone—to adopt and adopt new technologies to meet some or all of their own energy needs.
- Learning ways we can use less energy now (“reduce, reuse, recycle”) using advances in technology as well as simple changes in human behavior to reduce consumption without great compromise or sacrifice.
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