Research Paper: Alternate Energy in Daily Life

Pages: 15 (5656 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy for $19.77

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[. . .] Students and others living in apartments or other rentals, especially those living in old rental units, would probably not have enough power for an entire day and would likely be part of the class of have-not Americans who had to suffer by having unreliable electricity in their daily life.

Back in the mid-20th century, science fiction commonly envisioned a future where everyone went faster and farther. Star Trek proposed that people might someday go anywhere with transporters, while even catoons like The Jetsons showed a future where every family had personal, flying cars. Star Trek actor Avery Brooks brought up the lack of flying cars in an IBM commercial that played as the 21st century opened, saying:

"It's the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don't see any flying cars! Why? Why? Why? Because millions of people can work together on the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week! You don't need flying cars." (IBM)

The presence of flying cars would've been a big change to daily life in the United States. They might've allowed people to travel quickly over large distances without having to own an airplane or go to an airport. Their might also have required Americans to study harder for a driver's license, start driving at a later age and stop driving earlier. Roads would have to be re-engineered, and new privacy laws implemented to prevent flying cars from invading the privacy of people in their own homes or back yards. Were people able to drive flying cars, their daily life might be quite different from what it is today.

A person watching this commercial in 2000 probably wouldn't have realized that a revolution in ground transportation was right around the corner -- just not one that involved flying cars or big changes to anyone's daily life. The Toyota Prius, released in the fall of 2000, was the first electric hybrid car to enter the automotive market in the United States. Though early hybrid cars were underpowered and produced only a minor benefit in gas mileage, rising oil prices that resulted in higher gas prices, along with improvements in the technology of the Prius and other hybrid cars, soon made them a winning product for automobile manufacturers. A decade later, hybrid cars were very common on American roads. The 900,000 American-owned Pruis hybrids by themselves, not counting other hybrid cars, prevented an estimated 9 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and saved 650 million gallons of gas (The Washington Times). And yet, hybrid cars still require gas to run, and other vehicles that use only alternative energy sources are rare. Transportation and travel still rely heavily on oil power in the United States today. Most hybrid car owners probably don't feel that their car ownership has changed their daily life much, except that they pay less for gas and require it less frequently. Most Americans who don't own hybrid cars have felt no impact on their daily lives from the existence of hybrid cars at all.

Adoption of entirely electric cars would be a bigger change to daily life for most consumers. Electric cars would be considerably more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars, and better even than hybrid cars. Electric vehicles have been in use for decades, such as electric busses used in some cities. These electric vehicles have been of limited use because they required connection directly to an electric wire in order to run. Thus, electric busses could only be used on particular bus routes specifically engineered for use by electric busses. Fortunately, electric cars envisioned to be marketed to consumers are not as limited. Instead of requiring a constant connection, electric cars would require periodic charging at a charging station. Instead of pumping gas at a gas station every few days, owners of electric cars would need to charge their car's battery at an interval that might be hours or days. It seems likely that should electric cars become popular, they would also become easier to use, faster to charge, and be made to require less frequent charging. These vehicles would likely cause very little change in the average American's daily life. Instead of going to the gas station, the owner of an electric vehicle might visit a charging station or have one installed in his house. He would simply need to remember to charge his vehicle instead of remembering to fill it with gas. On the balance, electric vehicles might cause a few more changes in an owner's daily life than hybrid cars do, but not a great change.

Biodiesel vehicles have been used in the United States for more than a decade, but have yet to gain popularity as personal vehicles the way hybrids have. Biodiesel has gained a bad name because many producers in less-developed countries have made space to grow biodiesel crops by clear-cutting large swaths of tropical rainforest or other native landscape. Reports have suggested that due to such practices, biodiesel isn't more environmentally friendly than regular diesel. At the same time, biodiesel wasn't wildly popular even before these reports became public knowledge. In part this could be because private owners of biodiesel vehicles must travel to specific fuel stations to fill their gas tanks. For many people this might mean driving far out of their way, and vehicle owners may not be willing to make that sort of daily change in their lives.

The use of food crops or land previously devoted to food crops for growing biodiesel has also been accused of driving up the prices of some foods. Between 1990 and 2005, worldwide demand for grain rose by an average of 21 million tons per year, but in 2007 alone, the demand for grain to make ethanol was 27 million tons (Clayton, 2008, para 6). Biodiesel isn't the only demand on food, but its increasing use means that the demand is greater than it otherwise would be. Increasing food prices affect everyone. Food is a daily concern and being able to afford both enough food, and food that is good, is an important aspect in the daily life of nearly any person anywhere in the world. In some parts of the world, rising food prices have led to protest, demonstrations, and violence. If the United States were to convert complete to alternate energy, forcing an increase in the use of energy sources like biofuel, the increased demand for grain crops would likely contribute to increasing costs for food in the United States. Americans might be wealthy compared to residents in other parts of the world, but even they would notice the rising food costs. Protests or demonstrations might occur, or even violence if protests got out of hand. Poorer people might even turn to crime more readily in order to find the money to pay for food. Any of these outcomes could affect the daily life of any American. Anyone's budget can be strained when prices rise quickly, particularly college students who are generally have low incomes.

Air transportation is one type of transportation that might change a great deal if it had to rely on alternate energy sources, because at the moment, no viable sources of alternate fuel exist for airplanes or other flying vehicles. Bio fuel is not considered a good alternate fuel source for aircraft because of its low freezing temperature and other problems, and no other fuel sources are currently available for aircraft use (Daggett et al., p1-2). So, should standard oil-based fuel sources used today not be available, air travel might become impossible. At first glance, a lack of air travel might seem like a small problem, since most people do not travel by air very often. However, it would actually have a large impact on the modern world, even into people's daily lives. Our modern world relies on air travel to move both people and items quickly from one distant part of the globe to another. The movement of letters, packages, and people help sustain our speed-oriented modern life, and the inability to travel quickly would make travel to other countries or even other states a much more expensive and time-consuming act. Traveling would become a major commitment, and fewer Americans would travel outside of the United States.

As one example, instead of being a simple matter of a few hours on an airplane, an exchange student like me would have to endure days or weeks traveling by boat to the United States from other parts of the world. He would be unable to visit family easily, or have family visit him. For an exchange student like the author of this paper, the end of air travel would have a large impact on his life. Going to college would become a multi-year commitment and require a great deal of personal sacrifice. The community of exchange students and of other people from the same culture… [END OF PREVIEW]

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