Energy is incredibly important to the United States because it fuels our modern world, but is its toll on the environment worth it? Right now, the U.S. is mostly dependent on fossil fuel energy sources, including oil, natural gas, coal and other similar resources. However, although these fossil fuels are efficient at powering our machines and gadgets, they do so at a great cost to the environment.
Gases being polluted into the air.
Effects of Fossil Fuels
In fact, according to "Environment and Ecology", a web-based organization, petroleum and other similar resources, when burned, let off a variety of gases that are harmful to the environment. These gases include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. All of these byproducts of burning fossil fuels have profound effects on ecosystems across the world, each of which has a different negative impact on the environment.
First, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is believed to be a major cause of climate change. Second, sulfur dioxide causes acid rain, which increases erosion and weathering that can be harmful to ecosystems. Finally, carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas can cause death to humans in the right concentration.
Meanwhile, because of all of this pollution caused by burning these fuels, scientists are looking into alternative energy solutions, such as solar, wind, and nuclear power. But it’s not possible that the U.S. can immediately stop burning all of these fuels. According to the organization "Face The Facts USA", 93% of cars, trains, and airplanes are reliant on oils to run and if the U.S. government stopped the burning of fossil fuels even over a few years, it would still leave many Americans without affordable transportation.
Additionally, fossil fuels are important because they cost less per kilowatt hour, a unit of energy. Based on statistics found on Wikipedia, burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas can cost between 72-144 dollars per megawatt hour. Clean energy sources such as solar and wind energy are not as cost effective as natural gas. Most wind power costs between 73-196 dollars per megawatt hour and most solar energy costs between 125-239 dollars per megawatt hour.
Onshore wind turbines generating energy.
However, these clean energy sources don’t provide nearly the same amount of energy as natural gas does. According to Business Insider, the size of the solar panel range needed to power the world would be 496,000 square kilometers (Harrington, 2017). To put the sheer size of that into perspective, that is a surface area just under the size of Spain. Instead, the U.S. has to have a gradual approach to a more clean energy efficient society.
Solar panels generating energy.
But what energy should replace fossil fuels? Well, although fear mongering has erupted around its name in the past, nuclear energy is actually one of the best replacement energy sources to fossil fuels. Nuclear power would be such a viable replacement to natural gas because it is able to create massive amounts of power using less resources, such as the amount of nuclear plantations needed to generate enough power to sustain the U.S. energy needs, which is very few.
In fact, according to the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute in one year alone a nuclear power plant was able to create 11.8 billion kilowatt hours on one energy plant. To put that in perspective the total energy consumption of the us yearly is 3.9 quadrillion. This means that there would only need to be about 331 nuclear energy plants within the united states running at peak efficiency, in order to fuel the entire nation, which is much smaller than the 557 coal power plant sites alone used in the U.S. at the end of 2012, according to the organization Climate Central.
A nuclear power plant generating energy.
Furthermore, according to the organization "Conserve Energy Future" nuclear energy produces much less greenhouse gas emission than regular fossil fuels do and because of nuclear energy growth greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by almost half. That is beneficial because that means that it has a very large capacity for energy production, but at a small cost to the environment. Meaning it seems to beat out solar, wind, and fossil fuel energy sources in its viability.
In conclusion, fossil fuels have been important in the energy industry over the past century. However they pose a threat to the environment and are becoming inferior because of newer energy possibilities, such as nuclear. Therefore, it's time for the U.S. to seriously reconsider whether fossil fuels are the best energy source for the nation.
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Harrington, Rebecca. “Here’s How Much of the World Would Need to Be Covered in Solar Panels to Power Earth.” Business Insider, 1 Oct. 2015, www.businessinsider.com/map-shows-solar-panels-to-power-the-earth-2015-9. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.
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