Weekly Blog for Class 4: Different Forms of Energy and Their Societal/Environmental Effects
Thanks to the exponential development of Earth in the last century, energy is more essential and valuable than ever before. With that being said, energy and our use of it is more harmful and dangerous to our planet than ever before as well. The ways in which we generate energy are extremely threatening to not only the state and longevity of Earth, but can also directly affect human health, both of which are things to be vigilant and mindful of. In this blog, I will briefly cover the basics of energy in the modern world and then go in depth regarding its different forms and their advantages/disadvantages.
Energy is typically broken down into two major categories based whether it is renewable or not. In the United States, 90% of commercial energy, or energy that is sold in the marketplace, comes from nonrenewable energy resources. The most popular forms of nonrenewable energy are oil, coal, and natural gas. Crude oil itself is the resource used for 36% of the total energy used in the United States, but acquiring it comes at a serious cost. The extraction process of crude oil, known as hydraulic fracturing or more commonly known as “hydrofracking”, has severe environmental repercussions. Burning the oil itself to create the desired energy is even more harmful as the process results in high levels of carbon dioxide, a driving force in contributing to global warming. Oil sands are another form of oil that is used as an energy source, but is even more detrimental to the environment than crude oil. Extracting oil sands causes high levels of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is said to be 20% mire “climate-changing” than crude oil. Needless to say, these nonrenewable energy resources are destructive to local ecosystems and environments as well as the atmosphere in which controls the climate and holds the air we breathe. In order for humans to use the amount of energy that we currently are, cleaner and renewable energy resources are going to be necessary in order to maintain sustainability.
Scientists estimate that by 2065 that the percentage of fossil fuels in the commercial energy market will drop from 90% to roughly 50%. This transition over the next forty to fifty years will not be one that goes smoothly due to political conflict, capitalist interests, and overall adaptation to a widespread new system will be difficult for some. One of the more interesting prospects brought forward in the reading was the concept of a new grid. The current electric grid being used in the United States was designed nearly a century ago and is immensely out of date and its depths for the growth made by society in that timespan. Prior to reading this article, I had assumed that the national grid would’ve at least been built in the last fifty years and even at that point would be lagging behind for where we are today. The cost of revamping said system though would clearly be a very large one and something that cannot be simply changed overnight, but the positive outcomes appear to outweigh these negatives. The reading states that according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the cost of building a modernized grid would be around $800 billion over the next twenty years, but the new system would allow the U.S. to save $2 trillion over that timespan. While I acknowledge that this switch is a major risk and is one that is extremely costly, it seems to be one that should be taken due to how plentiful the benefits are. Not only will the U.S. be saving a large amount of money, but they will also be using a system that is more efficient and environmentally friendly. The new grid will also create new jobs and can further stimulate the economy as an aside.
As another part of the transition the United States specifically will need to become more dependent on renewable energy resources in the next forty or so years to make realistic progress. Of the multiple resources provided and discussed in this reading, I believe that wind power is one of the more promising options and can definitely play a big part in cutting into America’s fossil fuel usage. The DOE also acknowledges this as they believe that by 2030 30% of America’s electricity can be generated by wind. Wind energy is also environmentally friendly and does not interrupt with as many species or ecosystems as many other both renewable and nonrenewable resources do. Wind however is something that is somewhat inconsistent and does require a backup plan if depended on as a full time source of energy. Shown below are
some disadvantages of wind energy for reference, but from a personal perspective I don’t feel as if any are threatening environmentally or present actually serious problems for humans. In my opinion, the advantages of being widely available, relatively cheap, and environmentally friendly in comparison to other options. Though many of the renewable energy resources are an improvement to fossil fuels, wind energy stands out to me as something that can be a total game changer in the future.
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Question: How widespread is the use of biomass as an energy source? It does not appear to be very efficient or super environmentally friendly either.