In a previous discussion we had talked about alternative energy, which seemed like a pressing issue to discuss further. The class was on all sides of this issue with creating and utilizing alternative energy. Some class members included as alternative energy hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas and oil although it is only alternative in the sense that it is a new energy and not a replacement for our reliance on fossil fuels. There are many other alternative energy sources, which were not discussed including algae for biofuels and nuclear power, which would both be alternatives to fossil fuels. With our present primary sources of energy (fossil fuels) causing unpredented rising C02 levels, it’s amazing to see how little climate changed came up in the discussion.
During the class discussion there was a lot of opinion variation deciding if fracking more natural gas is worth it. Even though I agree alternative energy is needed, oil is the best choice since it can be utilized efficiently and can last longer than other sources. We have adapted well to drilling for oil, while surrounding ourselves with better lives and more ease in our civilization. Algae as a biofuel are the only alternative energy source, which can immediately be used, in our existing gas-powered engines. The challenge with algae, however, is the sheer amount of energy that is needed. Nuclear power is really the only alternative to supply the amount of energy that is needed. However, it can be too risky unless properly handled in extreme and unpredicted changing environments such as what was encountered in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, which was affected by an earthquake caused tsunami wave. Nuclear power will eventually be made safer as technology increases and the ability to store more energy increases.
Alternative energy like solar power and wind power may be alternative but are still cannot provide the amounts of energy that is needed. Wind power had its pros and cons but still may not be worth it unless built in the proper location. It also has a large upfront setup cost. Solar power also has the same problem, however with developed countries agreeing to increase the use of solar power, setup costs will decrease as solar panels become more common. China has agreed to increase its usage of solar power by up to 25% due to their huge C02 levels. Even once solar panels become cheaper with better technology, it still won’t supply the quantity we need unless we construct space-based solar panels. Space-based solar panels would eliminate variables such as clouds and cycles of days. Space-based solar panel is more efficient overall than ground based panels.
Another topic that came up during out discussion about alternative energies was climate change. There are very few scientists who still believe it is a hoax, however as Figures 1 and 2 both show, C02 emissions are rapidly rising. One figure is from epa.gov and another source both showing obvious trends in the increased emissions. Figure 1 shows how at 1852 the emissions began to take off. This was due to the industrial revolution and as we used more fossil fuel energy sources, we created more C02 emissions.
We must now ask ourselves how much further we can change our climate while burning away fossil fuels and creating new energy sources to burn away. Alarmed by the situation and bolstered by the fact that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening and caused by human activity, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a publication “What we know” (http://whatweknow.aaas.org/) this year. If we do not turn to a alternative energy soon, we may one day run out of our oil supplies and cause a collapse of civilization like in the article dealing with the collapse of a civilization.
Figure 2. [This picture shows year 1900-2010]
Figure 1. [This picture shows how the industrial revolution of 1852 sparked the emissions.]