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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Alternative Energy Sources

Dr.Badruddin Khan asked:

All living systems require energy to survive. A person requires energy in the form of food. A plant requires energy in the form of sunlight. All mechanical systems also require energy to function. A car needs gasoline to run. A sailboat needs wind to move across the water. Energy, in one form or another, is needed for all living and nonliving activity on the planet. Energy does not actually exist as a thing itself, however. Instead, energy is an idea describing various sources of power. Long ago, humans relied upon the natural systems of the earth to meet their energy needs. Cliff dwellers of the Southwest built their homes to capture the heat of winter sunlight. Ancient Greeks bathed in water warmed by geothermal vents. Humans around the world used wood to cook their meals and warm their homes. The natural systems of the planet met all of these needs.

The pursuit of more powerful and consistent energy sources came about during the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late eighteenth century and continued through the beginning of the nineteenth century. For the first time, humans began burning fossil fuels in great quantities to meet their energy needs. Fossil fuels powered the factories they worked in, the farm equipment needed to produce large crops, and eventually, the cars they drove. It seemed as if fossil fuels were the perfect answer to the need for a quick and efficient form of energy. It was not until the 1970s that serious problems from the use of fossil fuels began to be recognized. Oil-producing countries began to demand more money for their product. Oil-consuming countries, such as the United States, refused to accept these higher costs. Many countries put oil embargoes into place. This drove the cost of fossil fuels higher and higher. This series of events led to an energy crisis. People began to wonder what they would do if the cost of fossil fuels did not decline and, consequently, an interest in alternative energy sources began to develop.

Also, since the energy crisis of the 1970s, scientists have learned more about the environmental impact of fossil fuels. They have linked acid rain to the sulfur dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned. Burning fossil fuels also releases large quantities of carbon dioxide. Scientists have found a connection between the growing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and an increase in global temperatures, referred to as global warming. These discoveries about the effects of fossil fuels have also led to an increased interest in the development of alternative energy sources. Currently, there are four main alternative energy sources being developed and used today: solar power, wind power, hydropower, and geothermal power. These energy sources, called renewable energy, are all powered by the natural systems of the earth. Unlike fossil fuels, they are also continuously replenished by the earth’s natural systems regardless of whether or not they are used. Sunlight will stream down on the planet every day, whether it is captured with solar panels or not. Wind will blow across the land, regardless of turning the rotor of a windmill. Rivers will flow down mountains and geothermal vents will release energy, whether or not their energy is harnessed.

As the resources of the planet are used faster than they are replaced, people are turning to solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy to meet their energy needs. Supporting the use of energy sources that are replenished as fast, or faster, than they are used is helping to create a sustainable energy future. For such changes to happen effectively, however, it will take changes in government policies, more economic support for alternative energy producers, and individual consumers demanding a different choice. These factors will determine the direction of energy production in the coming decades.

1 comment:

  1. Good Article. And its good to see we finally have an administration that is supporting the use of alternative energy. Its a no brainer.


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