Table of Contents
Since the advent of the industrial revolution, merely two hundred years ago, humans have taken enormous steps in discovery and development. The amount of development experienced in this period is quite significant compared to what was done in the previous millions of years, which marked the existence of human beings. Similarly, during this period, humans have massively been involved in the destruction of the environment, either directly or indirectly. The spread of industries and their effects have left majority baffled by how significant our actions had spelled doom on earth. Climate change is an issue attributed to pollution and especially reliance on fossil fuels. Increasing dry land and rising oceanic bodies dwarf the presence of icecaps in most high mountains and the poles. All these changes are very concerning as they place great pressure on earth’s resources. This prompted the need to come up with environmental conservation procedures that include reducing the reliance on the fossil fuels, and other destructive sources of energy. When people think about the remedies to these environmental issues, we primarily tend to shift focus towards alternative sources of energy. These are sources, which are alternatives to fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources have an insignificant effect on the environment and therefore act as the remedy. Taking initiative to develop these alternative sources of energy is critical to environmental conservation and climate change mitigation. This makes it necessary for America to pursue alternative sources of energy, in a quest to remedy the problems caused by fossil fuels use in the world.
Alternative energy sources are free, renewable and do not lead to undesirable effects on the environment. These energy sources can be utilized in houses, vehicles, factories, as well as other high energy consuming facilities. Across the globe, scientists have enegaged in research and development of various alternative energy sources, in a quest to meet the growing need of energy by the burgeoning population. The development and use of alternative energy has largely been slow in the US, due to the absence of government’s acknowledgement of the problem that fossil fuels have on the environment and recognition of the obvious climate change. Through direct government participation, it is probably true that alternative energy sources could become a stable of the American economy and as such reduce the negative impacts that fossil fuels have on the environment.
US statistics on petroleum use and effects on the environment
It is a fact that the United States of America consumes more natural materials and less sustainably, than any other country on earth. Statistics show that, a child born in the United States will aggravate thirteen times more ecological destruction in their lifetime compared to a child in born in Brazil. With merely less than five percent of the global population, the United States utilizes about 25% of the world’s oil. Fossil fuel consumption is utilized at a considerable high margin, even when compared to other developed nations. For instance, an individual in US uses double the fossil fuels that an average person in the UK does, in their lifetime. In 2011, petroleum accounted for 36% of all energy used in the USA, which is over one-third of all energy consumption. Accordingly, it is also ranked as being one of the significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions by 32.3%. In the global arena, petrol was consumed in 2011, accounted for 32.5% of all energy. The transport sector accounts for more than 60% of petroleum consumption.
According to the 2014 United States Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, formulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 32.5% of the U.S greenhouse gases emanated from petroleum in 2012. It was even far much ahead of natural gas and coal. 79.8% of the CO2 emissions emanated from the transport sector and 12.5% from the industrial sector. In the industrial sector, petroleum refineries consume a lot of energy. For instance, in 2012, 2.7% of the U.S greenhouse gases emanated from the industrial sector. These statistics show how petroleum is a great contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming in particular.
Effects of fossil fuels on the environment
Petroleum refineries are major sources of air pollution due to the hundreds of chemicals broken down from crude oil. During the manufacturing process, toxic and hazardous air pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere, which include BTEX compounds. The refineries are also primary sources of criteria air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide gas, particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Some of these emitted wastes are cancer-causing agents among other respiratory problems. The rise of childhood asthma and other respiratory problems around petroleum refineries has confirmed this. In the United States alone, millions of pounds of air pollutants are released by refineries every year. Add to this, the accidental release of waste due to refinery accidents, plant upsets, and vehicle exhausts, lead to a complex mixture of nitrogen oxides and volatile hydrocarbons, that damage of the ozone layer.
The contamination of both surface water and groundwater is prevalent in areas with high petroleum content and use. Due to the use of deep injection wells, for petroleum wastewater disposal, some of these wastes end up joining groundwater and aquifers making their use, by humans and animals, hazardous. Despite the groundwater undergoing treatment processes, before being released to the surface water, it is not safe for voluminous release to water bodies. The creation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), was necessary to regulate this process. This is because the process might be unsuccessful leading to the significant contamination of water bodies, and the discharge might remain for long in water bodies.
Soil pollution hazards
Petroleum accidents, such as oil spills during transportation, usually affect soil. Many residuals are produced during refining processes, that if released to the soil, they can cause contamination. Plants cannot exist in oily soil due to the absence of oxygen. Despite the effects on soils being less obvious, compared to air and water, soil takes time to recover its original condition. As a result, nature balance is significantly affected.
Alternative Energy Sources
This is the use of wind energy to harvest power produced when the blades of wind turbines propel. Using an electrical generator, the rotating turbine blades are transformed to electrical current. In the contemporary world, wind farms have grown and adopted in many parts of the world. These wind farms are then connected to the national grids providing electric to marginalized areas and industries as well. The production of energy from wind power has proved to be substantial and has been growing. For instance, in 2005, the wind power production stood at 58,982 megawatts.
During the production of wind power, there is no involvement of any chemical processes. As a result, no pollution can lead to environmental contamination. Compared to fossil fuel burning, wind power does not have any harmful by-products. This form of energy is renewable, and therefore it is impossible to run out of. Wind farms can host grazing fields for domestic animals, which can also be used in the production of biofuels. Wind farms do not require subjugating lands used for other purposes such as agriculture because there are many strategic areas to host wind power. For instance, it can be built in offshore areas, deserts, and arid plain areas.
Solar energy has extensive uses. For instance, it is used in electricity production, cooking, heating as well as in seawater desalination. During the production of solar energy, sunrays are trapped in solar cells and then convert it to electricity. Solar power is also utilized in the making of heat air or water using parabolic mirrors, and solar thermal panels. The presence of hot plains in U.S means that there is a huge potential of solar power.
The presence of the Sun provides us with a dependable renewable energy. As long as the sun continues to exist, its energy will always reach earth. The absence of chemical reaction means that there are no pollutants released into the air or water. Solar energy is beneficial as it is utilized in other uses such as heating pools, water tanks, and spas. Its power produces light and heat as well.
This is the heat that is embedded deep in the earth surface within the rocks. Geothermal energy makes use of this heat produced from the hot water from the underground. The hot water leads to the production of steam, which rotates turbines leading to powering of electric generators.
There are no harmful by-products of geothermal energy once done correctly. Geothermal plants are self-sufficient regarding energy once built. Due to their small nature, geothermal energy does not alter the landscape not consume large tracts of land.
This form of energy is produced when dammed water is driven via a generator and a water turbine. Sometimes tidal power is used in harnessing kinetic energy. This energy is massive depending on the kinetic energy produced. In the United States, there are various dams for hydroelectric power currently. The increase in demand for electricity means that there is need to locate more areas creation of hydropower stations. The presence of dependable rivers such as Mississippi and Missouri among others can be a significant source of this power. Besides, the present dams need to be renovated to harness their full potential. Most of the hydropower dams were built centuries ago and therefore meaning that they do not produce to the maximum.
In conclusion, there is urgent need for the United States to adopt alternative sources of energy. Petroleum has contributed to the deterioration of the United State’s environment and climate as a whole. Its large-scale use means that there is still a continued release of toxic chemicals to the atmosphere. As a State, we need to utilize energy sources, which will not tax our environment. Therefore, alternative energy sources such as solar power, geothermal, wind power, and hydroelectric power need to be adopted in large scale. The presence of renewable energy sources means that they will be in continuous supply and hence refresh our already depleted environment.
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