Book Report: Energy Issues

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¶ … generations are proving unacceptable for future use. As both environmental and political factors threaten the status quo, and our dependence on fossil fuels for our main energy source, it is clear that new sources of energy must be found and pursued. Thus, the current governmental administration is pushing for huge energy reforms. With this push comes a new effort to explore and use solar power, water resources, wind energy, hydrogen, and biofuel sources like ethanol.

Traditional coal and fossil fuels have been used for over a century. These fuels tend to include oil, gas, and coal. Although used in small amount prior the nineteenth century, they exploded in popularity and use during the Industrial Revolution. With the rise of industry over the next few generations, we have come to show a dependence on these fossil fuels. According to research, "Today, eighty-five percent of all energy produced in the United States comes from burning these fuels," (Sustainable Table 2010). Recent estimates of our use of such energy sources have also led to the view of a future with an even higher rate of dependence. Yet, "Fossil fuels are a finite resource," (West 2010). There are limited and dwindling sources of fossil fuels. With this limited supply and an increased demand, this would create instability in both the environmental and political senses. According to research, "There are a number of problems associated with fossil fuels, most of which stem from the by-products created when they are burned to create energy," (Sustainable Table 2010). Environmental consequences of such increased use of fossil fuels have become increasing apparent. Pollution is a serious consequence of our dependence of fossil fuels. Research states that "Fossil fuels also cause air, water and soil pollution, and produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming," (West 2010). The air pollution pumped into the ozone during the rise of popularity of coal and natural gas has had serious consequences of habitats around the globe. Thus, "Largely because of coal and petroleum combustion, the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the air today are thirty-five and eighteen percent higher, respectively, than they were before the industrial era," (Sustainable Table 2010). This danger to the environment is ongoing, and continues to unfold before our eyes.

This increasing threat has forced the government to react. There has been a recent push by the Obama administration to concentrate on finding alternative sources of energy that could reduce the impact on the environment caused by our increasing burning of petroleum products. According to research, "Fossil fuel dependence also damages the health of our nation," (Sustainable Table 2010). It presents serious threats to the power of the United States over its own consumption. This brings in economical and political factors into an already gloomy environmental debate. Our need for energy resources has only continued to grow. Therefore we have continued to depend on foreign oil as the provider of electricity for the nation. According to research, "In 2004, almost sixty-percent of petroleum products used in the United States were imported from other countries," (Sustainable Table 2010). In consideration of the extremity of our dependence on foreign oil, it is hard to consider reform. However, it is becoming evidently clear that reform is absolutely necessary. It is no longer about management, but domestic ownership of our power and energy resources. Thus, "Unless we dramatically change the way the United States consumes energy, our dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels will also grow -- and increasingly threaten the stability of American government, business, and everyday life," (Sustainable Table 2010). The current presidential administration has been acknowledging the need for changes in the energy strategy, and that reliance on oil alone was a dangerous practice. With this in mind, "President Obama has a comprehensive plat to chart a new energy future by embracing alternative and renewable energy, ending our addiction to foreign oil, addressing the global climate crisis, and creating millions of new jobs that can't be shipped overseas," (Organizing America 2010). His goals are not only to include conservation and environmental benefits, but also the increase of American self-sufficiency. If the United States it to have power over itself, it must have more say in the power ruling over energy consumption. Obama aims to increase the percentage of self-sufficiency as a way to do so. According to his administration, "To achieve our goal of generating 25% of our energy from renewable sources by 2025, we will make unprecedented investments in clean, renewable energy -- solar, wind, biofuels, and geothermal power," (Organizing America 2010). Additionally, Obama's administration has promised the increase in government spending in research and development of alternative fuel sources. Such investment would secure innovative uses of technology which can be fine-tuned to provide the most productive and cost effective alternative systems which would provide cleaner energy to more and more Americans across the country.

The most popular of those alternative systems have proven to be the development of solar power. "The sun is our most powerful source of energy," and recent efforts to harness its power have proven fruitful (West 2010). Solar energy itself is not far off from the current way we use fossil fuels today. In fact, "Energy from the sun is present in fossil fuels, stored in fossilized plant remains that once grew and absorbed the sun's energy through photosynthesis," which is the natural world's equivalent to solar power structures (Sustainable Table 2010). Solar energy depends on specific solar panels which are covered in photovoltaic cells. According to the research "Photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar cells, are used to capture the sun's energy and convert it into direct current electricity," (Sustainable Table 2010). These cells, mostly made from silicon, and then convert the sun's rays into usable and transportable electricity. Additionally, the sun produces thermal energy, which can also be used to generate both heat and electricity. This is primarily done through allowing the sun to heat up pools of water, but can also be accomplished through the use of a solar tower, which "is a large solar chimney through which heated air rises and so drives the wind turbines that generate electricity," (Sustainable Table 2010). Electricity off large plants of solar systems can produce enough electricity for small cities. Depending on the location of its use, solar power can provide much renewable energy that is constant throughout time without significantly impacting the world around it. Research states that "Sunlight, or Solar energy can be used for heating, lighting, and cooling homes and other buildings, generating electricity, water heating, and a variety of industrial processes," (West 2010). Solar Power can be used in both commercial and residential installations. In fact, many residents have begun taking on the hefty start up cost of installing solar panels to later enjoy life off the grid, where they no longer have to pay for energy. Although this can be costly up front, it can definitely pay off in the long run with no money spent over a lifetime paying cities for electricity, and in some instances extra power generated through residential solar systems can be sold to the city for money per kilowatt of power produced.

Additionally, water power proves proficient sources of energy for alternative uses. Also known as hydropower relies on the sheer might of water as it moves as its source of energy. "Water flowing downstream is a powerful force," and can facilitate enormous resources (West 2010). The source itself is completely renewable, for water levels have actually been rising around the world, as global warming continues to increase temperatures across the globe. According to research, "Water is a renewable resource, constantly recharged by the global cycle of evaporation and precipitation," (West 2010). There are several sources of energy through hydropower techniques. First, the age-old techniques from prior generations are continued to be used through capturing power from the rush of the water as it moves. Research suggests "Flowing water can be used to power water wheels that drive mechanical processes," (West 2010). Its techniques aim at capturing and harnessing vast bodies of water through the use of dams can also be used to generate electricity. But running water is not the only source for this renewable source of energy. In fact, "Energy from ocean waves and tides can be harnessed to generate electricity, and ocean thermal energy -- from the heat stored in sea water -- can also be converted to electricity," (West 2010). Utilizing the ocean as a source of energy proves a great idea, for the ocean is seemingly limitless, but it proves too costly for most practical uses with the current technologies available. Yet, with more funding allocated to research and development of oceanic geothermal energy, the powerful source may provide some future source.

Strategies from past generations continue to be fruitful in terms of available sources for renewable energy; wind proves both accessible and affordable. Human history has long relied on the wind as a source of energy. Movement across millions of miles… [END OF PREVIEW]

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