Energy in the United States
In terms of total use in the year 2010, the United States was the second largest consumer of energy (Barr, 2012). After Canada and a couple of small nations, the United States comes at the seventh position in the per capita energy consumption (World Resources Institute, 2001). In this energy consumption, the energy that is used overseas for the production of the retail goods used in the United States is not included.
Most of the energy that is consumed in the country is known to have come from fossil fuels as of the year 2010. According to the stats, 25% of this energy was derived from petroleum, 22% from coal and same amount from natural. Renewable energy sources provided 8% of this energy; meanwhile 8.4% came from nuclear power (United States Department of Energy, 2010). The renewable energy came mostly from the hydroelectric dams, geothermal, wind power and solar energy (Ristinen, 2006). It has also been analyzed that in the past 50 years, energy consumption has increased at a greater than energy production. The difference between energy production and consumption is fulfilled by earning through imports.
According to the statistics of the Energy Information Administration, the per-capita energy consumption has been relatively constant since the 1970s till today in the United States. From the years 1980 to 2010, the average energy consumption per person has been around 334 million British thermal units.
In this paper, we shall discuss the need for the United States to develop renewable power sources like solar power and wind power. According to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, the establishment and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy is something that marks a new beginning in the department of energy exploration (United States Department of Energy, 2009).
With every passing day, there is an increase in the world production of carbon dioxide that is being released into the atmosphere and that will be present in the coming hundred years. The increased amount of carbon dioxide in the environment results in an increase in the warmth of earth and therefore increased production of carbon dioxide is being considered an important reason of global warming. In order for us to get rid of global warming is to replace the present technologies with alternatives that have better or at least comparable performance but those that do not produce carbon dioxide. This is what is being referred to as the alternate energy.
By the year 2050, almost 33% of the total energy produced in the world would come from sources that renewable including wind and solar. These stats have been claimed by the two of the largest oil companies in the world; British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell. Because of the population growth, climate changes and depletion of the fossil fuel, there is need for the renewable energy sources to take up a bigger role in the production of energy than the ones that are being used already.
It should be noted that alternative energy are the energy sources that are associated with any undesirable implications. Energy produced from nuclear sources and fossil fuels are considered to be alternative energy because they do have some undesirable consequences. The alternative energy sources are not only the sources that are renewable but are also considered to be free energy sources, as it does not take any initial investment to generate energy from these sources. Compared to the conventional sources that are being used to produce energy, the carbon dioxide emission of the alternative energy sources is considered to be considerably less. The alternate energy sources include wind energy, biomass energy, solar energy, hydroelectric energy and geothermal energy. When these alternate energy sources are used together with recycling, the survival of man in the 21st century and beyond can be ensured.
From the perspective of an environmentalist, the solar power is the alternate energy that is doing the best so far. A PV system of 1.5 kilowatt power has the capacity to produce and maintain about 110,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is considered to be the main culprit in the production of the greenhouse effect, over the coming 25 years. Moreover, the solar system will also make the world get rid of its need to burn around 60,000 pounds of coal. With the use of solar power, there will be no acid rain, pollution of any sort of urban smog (Wind and Solar, 2013).
It is unbelievable that mankind did not think about exploiting the energy from the sun before this. Just think about it, when a person goes out on a sunny day and when sunlight falls on the face of a person for only 8 minutes, the sunlight travels around 93 million miles. The energized particles that are present in the sunlight called the photons are capable of striking the PV module that is capable of converting this motion into electricity. It should be noted that PV is no technology that has anything to do with glitz or glamor that we crave today, but is that technology that is much more sophisticated and elegant in many ways.
People in the United States should be encouraged to make use of the solar panels, irrespective of the amount of energy they want to produce. At businesses as well as at homes, the use of alternate energy should be promoted. The solar panels that are being produced come with a warranty of 25 years, or even more and the best part about these solar panels is that they are bombproof. There are chances that the solar panels might as well outlive the people who own them. These solar panels are also known to be modular. This implies that one can begin with these panels with a small system and then expand it with the passage of time and as it is used. Another good thing about these solar panels is that they are light weight (they weigh only about 20 pounds) and so even if you move from one place to another, you can easily carry them with you.
Wind power has been providing energy to societies for more than thousands of years now. The first time that this power was exploited by people was back in 5000 BC when the people who were sailing used this power to navigate the River Nile. By 900 AD, Persians had already been making use of windmills for over 400 years so that they could pump water. Another thing for which this power was used was the grinding of grain. There is a possibility that windmills might have been developed in China before 1 AD, but the oldest written document is traced back to the year 1219. As of Cretans, it is known that they were making use of hundreds of sail-rotor windmills that were used to pump water for the crops that were grown and to feed the livestock.
In the contemporary world, the people are starting to realize that wind power is emerging as one of the most promising sources of energy production that has the capacity to serve as an alternate to electricity that is generated by fossil fuel. It has also been reported that the cost of wind has decreased by 15% along with a two fold increase in the installed capacity the world over, and this capacity has increased to twice its value three times during the 1990s and 2000s. When we talk about the year 1999, we find out that the universal wind energy capacity was more than 10,000 megawatts that is almost 16 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. According to the statistics of the American Wind Energy Association, this amount of energy is sufficient to serve more than 5 cities that are almost equal to the size of Miami. To some people, five Miamis might not seem to be a significant area, but if the predicted production is achieved in the coming future, then wind power will become one of the main sources of electricity production.
Even though wind energy is one of the most affordable energy sources, it is also available and does not cause pollution; it has been associated with some drawbacks. Just as direct solar radiation lacks energy density, so does wind power (World Energy Assessment, 2001). This is mainly because wind power is considered to be a very diffuse source and this means that a great number of wind generators as well as huge land areas are requited for the production of significant amount of electricity, or heat for that matter. However, on the other hand, it is not possible to erect a wind tribune at every place mainly because most of the places do not receive the amount of wind that is required for the production of power. Once an appropriate place is found for the erection of the windmill, the construction and maintenance of this windmill can be expensive. Many analysts believe that wind power is a significantly capital-intensive technology (Renewable Energy Sources in the United States, 2013). It should be noted that if more is invested in the erection of a windmill or a generator and the interest rates that are being charged for the manufacturing equipment then the consumer of this energy will also have to bear a part of this cost. According to a study it was discovered that if the finance of the wind plants are made at the same level as that of gas plants, then the cost of these plants would decrease by almost 40%. Fortunately enough, the cost of wind energy is proportional to the facilities being built.
However, investments are being made to find out and exploit other sources of power and ways to make them viable. These sources include wave energy, geothermal and biomass.
America needs these alternate sources — why?
It should be noted that not just America, but the whole world needs to make use of the alternate energy sources and get rid of the conventional sources for the production of power and electricity. When we specifically talk about America, we take a number of factors into consideration. Keeping in view the current production and consumption of electricity in the country, we find out that there is a need for an increased production of energy. As we all are well aware of the fact that American has been suffering from an economic slump, it is evident that it cannot afford to import large quantities of oil, coal or any other fossil fuel to meet its demand of electricity production. Under current situation, the best way to solve this problem is to find out alternate ways of energy production that have more benefits than adverse effects and that are easy to produce.
When we talk about solar and wind energy, we talk about the renewable sources of energy production. Even though, we do generalize renewable energy sources by solar and wind power, biomass and other sources of energy production should also be taken into consideration when discussing these renewable energy sources. Solar power is so far considered to be the best renewable energy source and that is because it does not require a huge investment in the beginning. All one needs to do is to buy a solar panel that is not very costly, which lasts long and is easy to carry from one place to another. It becomes very affordable for the people to produce their own electricity with these solar panels, without giving anything hazardous to the environment. On the other hand, the energy production with windmill can be very expensive in the beginning as it requires capital for the construction and establishment of this windmill and also because first an appropriate piece of land is required and then a huge generator is required for the production of energy with a windmill.
Here, it becomes necessary for us to make a cost-benefit analysis of the whole power situation. The other sources of energy that are being used for hundreds of years now, like oil, gas and coal tend to pollute the environment. We are all aware of the fact that there is massive global warming that is causing major upsets in the weather patterns of the world. The global warming is an alarming condition for the inhabitants of the world as the glaciers can melt and cause extensive floods all over the world. The greenhouse effect is also destroying the protective ozone layer because of which the ultraviolet light hits the world unfiltered and is responsible for causing many different types of unusual cancers of the skin and other parts of the body. Moreover, there is also a lot of environmental pollution that is being caused by the generators and the furnaces that make use of coal and oil for the production of electricity. The environmental hazards are something that we all are well aware of. People are more prone to getting respiratory diseases that include asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. People are also predisposed to getting lung cancer because of the toxic agents that are being released in the environment. Apart from this, the population of the world is growing at an incredible rate. The fossil fuel, which is the conventional source of energy as of now, will get depleted one day. It is important for us to explore, develop and then completely shift on the alternate sources of energy production before the non-renewable energy sources deplete in the world. It is also expected that once these renewable sources are employed for the production of energy, people will have access to cheap energy.
It is the need of time for the government of the United States to make sure that it helps the agencies in every way possible for the production of energy from the renewable sources and to urge the people to accept these new sources as they have been developed for their own good and benefit. People should be made aware of the problems they might have to face if they do not move to the renewable sources in the coming years.
Anonymous (2001).World Energy Assessment.Renewable energy technologies, p. 221.
Anonymous (2001).World Resources Institute “Energy Consumption: Consumption per capita.”
Anonymous (2009).U.S. Dept. Of Energy, “President Obama Touts Clean Energy on Earth Day.”
Anonymous (2010).U.S. Dept. Of Energy, “Annual Energy Report.”
Anonymous (2013).Renewable Energy Sources in the United States.National Atlas of the United States.http://www.nationalatlas.gov/articles/people/a_energy.html
Anonymous (2013).Wind and Solar. Clean Line Energy Partners.http://www.cleanlineenergy.com/technology/wind-and-solar
Barr, Robert (2012). “China surpasses U.S. As top energy consumer.” Associated Press.
Ristinen, Robert, A (2006). Energy and the Environment. Malloy, Print.
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