The Future of Fossil Fuels
With each upcoming election, we place our faith into the hands of our president to ensure that Earth, our planet, our home, is properly protected. Who we choose to elect impacts our time left to make change in our future relating to the destruction of climate change. We have to reduce our usage of fossil fuels and other unsustainable resources dramatically to do so, but how exactly should we do it?
Fossil fuels, coal, and gas are all examples of “dirty” energy that isn’t sustainable or renewable. This means that one day, this energy source will run out and we will be left with nothing to power our cities. In order to prevent this from happening, we need to reduce our usage of unsustainable energy and integrate renewable energy instead. Renewable energy is referred to as “clean” energy, meaning that it’s a sustainable way of producing energy that won’t harm our atmosphere in the long run. This energy will never run out or create larger problems as opposed to unsustainable, nonrenewable energy such as fossil fuel, coal, or gas. Examples of renewable energy include solar, wind, and hydropower. For solar power, we have solar panels that can go on the tops of buildings to harness energy from the sun and transport that into heating, water, and general power. Wind power is provided through tall wind turbines that harnesses energy and transports it to an electric generator. Hydropower is similar to wind power, it uses a turbine as well but relies on fast, moving water to operate.
All of this sounds quite beneficial and easy to integrate into our neighborhoods, so why don’t we all use clean energy? Believe it or not, there are rather large disadvantages that come with these alternatives. Firstly, we can’t control how much energy we get on any given day. We can’t control when we get the energy or how much of it we get from it. The sun is up so many hours a day and we can’t control how much wind we get. Secondly, integrating all of this new technology where fossil fuels once stood would get incredibly expensive. After decades of using fossil fuels, everyone is already used to how it works and isn’t completely willing to give up the profits that come from it. Regardless of how much we can control it or how expensive it is, it’d be exponentially more beneficial to integrate these sources of energy before our time runs out.
We can’t exactly put solar panels on our cars or install a wind turbine on top of them so what do we do about our transportation, the leading cause of air pollution? Starting with traditional, modern vehicles, they have a combustion chamber that combines a small explosion of fuel, air, pressure, and electricity to get the vehicle moving. With the amount of driving that each person does in a day, the amount of fuel we put in our cars adds up not only in our wallets, but in the atmosphere. With electric cars, they store their fuel in a rechargeable battery that functions primarily on electricity, which is a lot cheaper than gas itself. Electric cars lessen the amount of emissions we put into the air by using electricity rather than gas.
These cars are incredibly beneficial to our environment, but they could use some advancements. Firstly, their batteries take extremely long to charge, up to eight to ten hours! Some charging stations offer rapid charging, where it only takes thirty to sixty minutes, but can be more expensive. Secondly, most electric cars use lithium-ion batteries that have an incredibly dangerous effect on the environment. Lithium can be found in many salt flats and in order to get to it, we must drill holes into the flats and get the brine we desire to chemically extract it to be the lithium batteries we need. In the process of mining lithium, tons of water get removed from the water sources that locals depend upon to use in their everyday life and creates more struggles for farmers and their crops. Mining lithium also creates pollution in the water due to chemical leakage that can poison communities.
In order to create a general source of energy that will be quite beneficial to our society, many turn to the use of nuclear energy to be the savior of our energy problems due to its low cost of operation, reliability, and its low pollution. But is it as great as it seems? Nuclear power plants can have detrimental accidents such as the Chernobyl explosion that affects people to this day. With nuclear power, also comes nuclear waste. Nuclear power has no emissions that can hurt our atmosphere, but it does create waste that is radioactive and must be stored far, far away to ensure that no one is affected by it. There’s currently no way to dismantle this waste, so we are forced to store the waste in containers for the time being. Lastly, most don’t know that we have to mine uranium in order to create nuclear power, which isn’t any better than mining fossil fuels. People who mine uranium have to deal with constant radiation on their body which can cause cancer and cardiovascular disease.
There are many pros and cons to every energy source that we have the option of using. It is humanity’s responsibility to weigh these pros and cons and make the best decision possible to attempt to somewhat reverse the immense damages we have put into our environment. We may have to develop completely new ideas to ensure that the atmosphere does not disappear, but it will be worth it in the long run. Humanity is running out of time to fix the various damages we have created, so it is important that we act as soon as possible.
BY: Alicia Wofford
Brett. “How a Car Engine Works.” The Art of Manliness, 8 Sept. 2020, www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-a-cars-engine-works/.
Karlis, Nicole. “Electric Cars Are Still Better for the Environment. But Lithium Mining Has Some Problems.” Salon, Salon.com, 13 Sept. 2019, www.salon.com/2019/06/17/lithium-mining-for-green-electric-cars-is-leaving-a-stain-on-the-planet/.
Moses, Marta et al. “How Do Electric Cars Work?” EDF, www.edfenergy.com/for-home/energywise/how-do-electric-cars-work.
Shinn, Lora. “Renewable Energy: The Clean Facts.” NRDC, 30 July 2020, www.nrdc.org/stories/renewable-energy-clean-facts.
Pimentel, David, et al. “Renewable Energy: Current and Potential Issues: Renewable Energy Technologies Could, If Developed and Implemented, Provide Nearly 50% of US Energy Needs; This Would Require about 17% of US Land Resources.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Dec. 2002, academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/52/12/1111/223002.
“The Pros & Cons of Nuclear Energy: Is It Safe?” Spring Power & Gas, 30 Apr. 2019, springpowerandgas.us/the-pros-cons-of-nuclear-energy-is-it-safe/.
“Renewable Energy: Why Don’t We Use It More If It’s So Great?” Perspectives On The Environment, 13 Feb. 2015,