Energy Problem

If you are someone who watches the news, then you know about the energy crisis the world is going through right now. Our two main sources of energy in the world are oil/gasoline, and coal. Both of these have magnificent negative repercussions surrounding them. As we all know, oil and gas prices are through the roof and it doesn’t look like they will get any better anytime soon. Coal is a fossil fuel that damages our atmosphere and it is not an unlimited resource. It will run out one day. As said in the article “Future Power: Where Will the World Get Its Next Energy Fix?” written by Michael Parfit, the world needs a new power source to fulfill its growing energy need. In this paper I will evaluate possible new energy sources determined by my criteria to solve the energy crisis.

The criteria I used to decide which method has the most potential to be our next source of mass energy are the amount of energy produced, ease of energy conversion (including cost), longevity (amount of available resources), ability to work at all times, and the effect on the environment. I ranked the effect of the new solution on the environment/people as the most vital of my criteria. This is important because if our planet becomes uninhabitable, we will not need energy because we will be dead. Human life must be considered more important than finding a new source of energy. Since an energy source that continues to harm our environment could indirectly lead to the end of human life, gaining power from these methods must be considered impossible. Therefore this must be the main criteria category we use as we select a new energy type to transition in to. My second most important criteria category is energy produced because the human race requires a large amount of energy. Currently, humans use about 320 billion-kilowatt hours of energy every day. As the population continues to grow and humans become more and more dependent upon electronics, we will need larger and larger quantities of energy. We will have to satisfy this near insatiable thirst for energy if we are to continue to live as we do today, and more if we are to further advance our technology. Without power, our civilization would collapse. Therefore fitting this criteria category must be and important factor in our decision concerning which type of new type of energy to transition to. However, this criteria category cannot be considered number one, because life without power and electricity is far better than no life at all. In other words, we can live without power, but we cannot live in a climate that does not support life. A lot of power potential with no resources to release that potential is similar to having a Ferrari with no gas. Though it might be the most attractive energy source, if it does not have enough longevity, it is practically useless. Therefore the longevity is the third most important criteria to consider. However, this criteria category cannot be considered number two because a temporary power source is better than no power, so amount of power still must be more important. In the time we have power, we may be able to develop a longer lasting power source. Furthermore, it cannot be number one most important criteria because human life is more important than how long we can sustain our new energy source. My fourth most important criteria category is ease of conversion, because if we cannot efficiently gather the energy, it is essentially a waste of resources. Also, if it cost too much more to create the energy then the power company receives, than it is probably never going to be available as a consistent and large-scale energy resource because the companies dealing with it will lose money. This was ranked below the amount of energy produced and amount of resources available because we will spend money and burn resources recklessly far sooner than we would watch the collapse of our civilization. In addition, costs can be managed and eventually lowered once technology is available to make the conversion easier. Once again, this must be ranked below effect on the environment because human survival is more important than any energy source, easily converted or otherwise. The fifth ranked and final criteria category ranked is the ability of an energy source to always be producing power. This is important because some sources, like wind and solar power, cannot always be producing due to the lack of sun or a calm day. Because of this, these power sources may be inconsistent in the manufacturing of electricity and therefore cause problems such as important communication systems breaking down. What if a day was so calm that no energy was produced, so a tower in an airport could not transmit air traffic to a plane and they crashed? The repercussions have the potential to be catastrophic. However, this criteria category is last on my list because energy can be stored in places like batteries, and new and more effective storing systems will probably become available in the near future, thus rendering this problem irrelevant, provided that some sunny and windy days cause the creation of excess energy to be stored.

Four solutions to this problem are wind energy, solar energy, nuclear energy, and biomass energy. Each solution has its own pros and cons. Nuclear energy has much to offer. It produces a vast quantity of energy, and nuclear power plants produce power as rapidly as we can make the turbines spin. This fits my criteria categories of two and five. My fourth criteria category is the ease of conversion. I have to call this one a split because, though the plants become safer to work in and cheaper to run year by year, the cost is still high, both monetarily and physically. The devastation caused by just one mistake is so great that this reaction can never be too safe. There are also many other problems with nuclear fusion. The greatest issue is that despite the lack of carbon dioxide emissions, the nuclear fusion reaction produces toxic waste that is not easily dealt with. Though this has not caused a problem yet, it has the potential to cause a disastrous event if the waste would ever be released. This emergency would decimate the people and environments surrounding ground zero. Furthermore there are the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, which painted a vivid picture of just how devastating a nuclear meltdown can be. Even more ominous and dangerous than a nuclear meltdown is the fact that these plants provide an excuse for possessing the materials to create a nuclear bomb. If one of these bombs falls in to the wrong hands, the results would drastically change the outcome of human history. Can you imagine how the U.S. would react if one of its cities such as New York City was demolished by a radical terrorist group? It would probably be grounds enough to start World War III. Additionally, the resource is non-renewable. Scientists believe that the stores of readily available uranium will only last for 50 more years. All of this means that my first and third criteria categories are not fit.

Biomass energy is another potential solution. It is the energy that would most seamlessly replace our current fuel system, fossil fuels. They are fuels as easy to burn as oil or gas, but made out of plants. This solution fits my criteria 2-5; it can produce as much energy as we want since all we have to do is grow more of the plants, the resource is renewable because we can grow plants to replace the ones used to make energy, it is as easy to convert to energy as oil or coal which we use today, and it works at all times. However, it would affect people because we would need to dedicate much more land to farming, which in turn would mean people would have to cram together and move to places that are uncomfortable to live in, like the Australian outback, northern Canada, or even force us to reside permanently on the ocean, if space runs out entirely. This makes the solution somewhat impractical.

Solar energy is very ecologically friendly. It does not produce carbon dioxide nor does it have any harmful wastes. In addition, it doesn’t take any human life. Therefore it fits my first criteria category. It also fits my second criteria category because it can produce as much energy as we need. If we need more energy, we just have to build more panels. Panels can be set up in the ocean as well, which improves the area available immensely. Since the sun energy is a renewable resource, my criteria category number three is also filled. However, solar energy cannot be utilized at all times. Though the sun is always shining somewhere in the world, the area where the receptors and converters are built may not always have the required amount of light energy to be produced. This problem can be solved by either storage of excess energy produced, or by the fact that individuals can own their own individual panels or to create energy for themselves and put the excess energy back in to the power grid. The odds are that at any point your power grid will have either enough sun somewhere or enough energy stored for there to be power for everyone.

Hypothetically speaking, there is one energy source that fits all my criteria. This is cold nuclear fusion, which is bonding two atoms and harnessing the energy released due to the combination. However, since this procedure is not yet possible, I cannot consider it the best solution to the problem of finding the next great energy source for our world and civilization because the cost to research it would be immense and right now it provides no energy source, which is the basis of all these solutions. The last new energy source is wind power. It fits all of my criteria categories. Wind energy does not produce any harmful effects including carbon dioxide. Another positive is it does not harm or take human life. All these things mean it fits perfectly into my criteria category one. Wind energy can also produce as much energy as windmills we can build as it fits criteria category two too. A third positive is it can produce as much energy as needed because if we need more, all we do is build more windmills. These windmills can be built out in the ocean to conserve inhabitable land. All of these things fit into criteria category three. Also wind might not always be blowing, which means energy will not always be produced, but once again it can be stored in batteries to be used on a non-windy streak of days. This makes it fit into criteria category five Wind energy is also very cheap to produce, which fits into category four.
Using these criteria, I have reasoned that the best-fit solution for our new energy would be wind power. Wind fits into my criteria category one just like solar and biomass are, but this is where nuclear is bad. Nuclear energy if released in the wrong form or way such as a bomb or a leak in the lab can turn horrible. That’s why wind is better than nuclear power. Wind energy also fits my second criteria category just as solar and biomass energy do too. But criteria category three is where biomass energy becomes negative. Biomass energy would need to use lots of the world’s resources, and would possibly force humans to live in alternative places so the land could be used. Windmills on the sea, which would not disturb humans, can make wind energy and that is what makes it better than nuclear energy. So the only two energy sources left are solar and wind energy and in ease of conversion is where wind pulls ahead. The cost of solar energy is much higher than wind, which makes wind more practical and better, and the best overall replacement energy source for the future. In conclusion, according to my specific criteria categories wind energy is the best new energy resource to replace our now inefficient sources. Hopefully this new energy resource will fulfill its duty in becoming our new energy resource so that our world can move on smoothly and efficiently.

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