Can Renewable Sources Replace Fossil Fuels? By: Timothy Karpich

Glossary

  • Proponents: a person who advocates a theory, proposal, or project.
  • Utilization: the action of making practical and effective use of something.
  • Renewable: energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power.
  • Consumption: The using up of a resource.
  • GreenHouse(Greenhouse Gas): a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation, e.g., carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Ethanol: a colorless volatile flammable liquid which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars; alcohol.
  • Hybrid: something made by combining two different elements; a mixture.

Why are billions of dollars being invested into new energy sources that provide very little energy output?

Renewable energy offers an infinite source of energy provided through renewable sources such as the sun's light and the wind blowing. However “since 1973, U.S. government agencies have spent $154.7 billion on renewable energy with little to show for it. Proponents claim that their favored technology is on the verge of being competitive with traditional forms of energy, however they have been saying this since the mid-1990’s”(Tverberg). The progress on renewable energy is slow, however we must prepare for the future because the fossil fueled energy we have today will not be available in the future. The world knows that the amount of oil reserves are running out, according to BP’s statistical review of world energy, there are 1.3 trillion barrels of oil left in reserves in the world’s major oil fields, statistic show that at present rates of utilization the oil should last about 40 years(BP global). Creating more sources of renewable energy and preparing for future generations may sound like a no-brainer, however many believe that the search for renewable energy is useless and a waste of time. Another questions that involves energy is the heating of homes during winter.

How will people heat their homes during winter when the sun doesn’t shine as much, and the wind won’t amount to enough energy?

Across the world, different seasons and climates gives us energy sources to utilize. During the winter however solar panels cannot be used and other sources or renewable energy are too inefficient to utilize independently, therefore we use natural gas to heat our homes and power factories. In Bobby Magill’ Natural Gas Emission article, he says, “The EIA expects the U.S. will emit 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from natural gas in 2016, compared to about 1.4 billion metric tons of coal”(Magill). Based off of this statistic, no matter what nonrenewable resources we use, fossil fuels will always emit greenhouse gases and pollute the earth. To fix this problem, we could use a hybrid energy system to combine two sources of energy such as biomass and wind energy, or wind energy and solar energy. According to an article written by a vermont based writer on energy and environmental issues, “the combination of two energy sources is a more efficient method of creating energy on a consistent basis. Therefore, hybrid renewable energy solutions are becoming more fashionable”(Calderone). A solution to the problem of not having energy because renewable sources aren’t providing enough energy can be solved through the hybrid energy system. Although this method of energy is originally expensive, a few years in the future and the energy source will be more technologically advanced and will pay off.

Why don’t we switch over to a more effective, cleaner energy such as nuclear energy?

As many already know, alternative sources of energy are very expensive. Another energy source, nuclear energy is also expensive and is a nonrenewable source of energy. The reason that nuclear energy isn’t used is due to renewable sources policies to push out non renewables and utilized renewable sources. According to Eduardo Porter from the New York Times, “the economics of nuclear energy are mostly to blame because it cannot compete with natural gas. Most nuclear reactors are losing between $5 and $15 per megawatt-hour. ...Nuclear generators’ problems come from brute force policies which push more and more renewable energy onto the grid(Porter)”. If we can get past the policies of renewable energy and utilize the highly efficient energy that we have such as nuclear energy, we can use it to power cities in the future. According to Michael Aucott from the New York Times, “next-generation nuclear offers the possibility of lower costs and greater safety than the current generation of plants. The megacities of the developing world will need to maintain a minimum supply of power for 24 hours to provide reliable electricity for all; other than fossil fuels, only nuclear can provide this base load power (Aucott)”. Although many are concerned about the future of energy, pushing nuclear energy out will not help to further the advancements of renewable energy, but might even slow it down. To solve this problem of energy, nuclear energy needs to be utilized along with renewable sources. Other sources also need to be utilized to advance ourselves in the future.

What is another source of energy that can be utilized to decrease usage in popular fossil fuels?

In our world today we depend on fossil fuels that are used by billions of people globally, these fuels include coal, oil, natural gas, etcetera. However why aren’t other sources of energy being utilized at greater scales that could replace these fuels such as ethanol. According to Julie Creswell and Diane Cardwell from the New York Times, “Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced alcohol fuel made from plant material, such as corn, sugarcane, or grasses. Using ethanol can reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” (Creswell, Cardwell). This shows that ethanol is a renewable energy that can be used from organic materials to replace oil dependency as well as reduce greenhouse gases. Ethanol should be utilized more so than crude oil due to its cleanliness and availability. According to an article from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “In 2015, about 13.7 billion gallons of fuel ethanol were added to motor gasoline produced in the U.S., and ethanol fuel accounted for about 10% of the total volume of finished motor gasoline consumed in the U.S.”(eia). This statistic shows that several billion gallons of ethanol fuel was incorporated into gasoline which allowed for less gasoline to be used in engines. However, to greatly decrease the amount of fuel used in engines from fossil fuels we must incorporate more ethanol into car engines, as well as find more alternative ways to replace popular fossil fuels.

Ethanol Fuel Plant

What energy based on statistics will be used efficiently and effectively in the future?

Today, fossil fuels supply about 90% of total energy, the future of energy will slightly change by using technologically advanced systems of extracting fossil fuels, as well as more efficient sources of renewable energy. The amounts of fossil fuels that can be recovered economically are difficult to estimate, due to technological developments and future rates of consumption. According to Otto Kopp’s Britannica article, “Advances in technology may make it possible in the future to mine thinner beds at greater depths at reasonable cost, increasing the amount of recoverable coal”(Kopp). Otto Kopp gives an example of future technological advancements which can greatly increase the effectiveness of nonrenewable sources such as the extraction of coal. Future technological advances in other energy sources can also increase the efficiency in extracting energy from different sources. According to the department of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “The U.S. can generate 80% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050”(NREL). Although the NREL doesn’t say exactly how they intend to increase renewable energy efficiency, future technological advancements will create more efficient ways of gathering energy, similar to nonrenewable technological advances. It can be determined that as technology increases, the efficiency of renewable and nonrenewable sources increases, the question is when will we begin to incorporate these new technologies into our current sources of energy.

Renewable Source of Energy. Hydropower

Sources

-"Alternative Approaches For Deriving Energy Contents Of Noncombustible Renewables." Monthly Energy Review (2016): 213-215. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

-Aucott, Michael. "Solar, Wind, and Nuclear."THe New York Times. N.p., 26 Nov. 2016. Web.<https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/opinion/solar-wind-and-nuclear.html?_r=0 >. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.

-"Fossil fuel." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 24 Feb. 2011. school.eb.com.proxy.elm4you.org/levels/high/article/35002. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.

-"Energy conversion." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 23 Jun. 2014. school.eb.com.proxy.elm4you.org/levels/high/article/106034. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.

-Hansen, James. "Comment: After Copenhagen's Failure, we can at Last Tackle Climate Change Honestly." The Observer, Dec 27 2009, pp. 30. ProQuest Newsstand, https://search.proquest.com/docview/250383222?accountid=42214.

-Porter, Eduardo. "How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course."New York Times. N.p., 19 July 2016. Web. 28 Jan. 207. <https://www.nytimes.com/202016/07/20/business/energy-environment/how-renewable-energy-is-blowing-climate-change-efforts-off-course.html>.

-"Renewable energy." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 12 Apr. 2011. school.eb.com.proxy.elm4you.org/levels/high/article/443101. Accessed 25 Jan. 2017.

-Tverberg, Gail. "Why 100% Renewable Energy Is Just A Dream."OilPrice.com. N.p., 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

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