Alternative Energy

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.

mooo

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

Figure 2. [This picture shows year 1900-2010]

Co2 emission

http://www.zmescience.com/ecology/environmental-issues/co2-drop-us-25092012/#!bcxB5m

Figure 1. [This picture shows how the industrial revolution of 1852 sparked the emissions.]

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7 Comments

  1. Okay going to get a lot of heat for this comment but I definitely am going to say that while climate change is occurring and humans are really messing up the environment, there is no way we can predict what will happen or accurately record the data. I also want to say that natural gas is superior to oil because 1, it is more abundant, especially after sweet crude is no longer around and 2 it can be packaged into a liquid state and kept in fuel tanks or shipped into a gaseous state via pipeline. This makes it a very versatile form of energy.

    natural gas found at bottom of oceans
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane_clathrate

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog, and out of the entire thing, one line really stood out to me. You said oil is still the best option we have, in terms of current technology. While it can be argued that this is false, and I actually attempted to do so in my blog post, your information to back it up has started to change my mind. However, everyone who can read knows that oil is not sustainable for much longer. There just isn’t enough oil left to sustain us forever on that path. I personally don’t think fracking is as bad as people make it out to be, but at the same time, I am also not as informed as other people. Solar is something that we are slowly beginning to harness more and more, and I think it has real potential. Overall, great post.

  3. I agree with you that we need alternative energy sources. In the meantime, oil is necessary to function. Alternative energy sources reduce CO2 emissions but at a large cost. Over time solar and wind power reduce costs and pay for themselves essentially, but the initially payments are still a huge factor preventing people from using renewable sources.

  4. I agree with your idea and I think we should begin to produce a larger quantity of nonrenewable resources because even though the cost is a problem but it is worth to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. The increase of CO2 level causes global warming and as a result natural disasters and lost of natural lives such as polar bears begins to occur frequently. So in compare of natural live (including ourselves) and cost, I would say that money is worthless in this case.

  5. We definitely need to limit the amount of CO2 emissions we release into the atmosphere. We are at a tipping point soon and we brought it upon ourselves. I am glad you use the term climate change rather than “Global Warming”. I hate when people use global warming and climate change interchangeably because then people will say things like “If its global warming why is it -30 degrees today??”. Personally the past few years I have seen lot of extreme weather (ie the polar vortex, record highs in early spring). I believe it has to be a combination of all of the alternative energies that have been developed and the weening off of fossil fuels.

  6. The idea of space-based solar panels is pretty cool, I would not have thought of that. I wonder if it would be worth it in the end considering costs to get the panels into space, have them working, and then harness the energy for use on Earth. I think it is necessary to keep moving in the direction or wind and solar energy even though the upfront costs may be large because we are eventually going to have to rely on something other than the current methods. I agree with @dannynemeth and you in the sense that CO2 emissions is a rising issue and needs to be dealt with in the immediate future. However, if we are able to control the emissions, I wonder what other problems may arise.

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