Alternative Energy Sources
Energy is all around us. Almost everything that you can see or touch is energy or took energy to make. Even our bodies are made up and made from energy and we can also produce energy but it takes energy to do so. So when you think of it in that way how can anyone say that the United States and even the world may be entering an energy crisis? We are though and some parts of the world already have.
Even though it maybe true that some sources of nonrenewable energy sources are virtually inexhaustible because of technological advancements. However, these resources such coal, oil, and natural gas are slowly killing us, the environment, and the whole world we live in. This is because fossil fuels such as those previously mentioned give off greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) which cause smog and allow harmful radiation from the sun to penetrate our atmosphere. This problem is continually getting worse because we continue to use more and more of these fossil fuels every year. This is mainly because of population growth, inefficient buildings, lighting, and automobiles, and a general wasteful attitude towards energy. In fact 43 percent of all commercial energy produced is wasted unnecessarily because of factors
such as these. If we could be as completely efficient in energy use as technologically possible we would only need the current amount of electricity provided by the hydroelectric power plants to satisfy most of out electrical needs. This sadly is almost impossible to achieve considering that you would need to rebuild buildings to insulate them better and redesign appliances to make them run efficiently. Even something as simple as an incandescent light bulb wastes 95 percent of its energy input (Miller 392-391).
There is only one answer to this ever-increasing problem: alternative sources of energy. This idea is not a new one it has been being explored since man's taming of fire. Man's first source of useable energy other than the sun (I do not include the sun as being a source of energy because all of our energy comes from it) was wood. This fuel was a very common and easily obtained type of energy but did not burn that hot. The next big revolution in energy was coal which was more difficult to obtain but burned much hotter which was better for industrial use. As people soon learned coal is a very dirty burning fuel and the first signs of pollution were noticed. London for example had a substantial amount of smog from all the coal being burnt in homes and from industry. Next came oil which was a very useful fuel that could be burned as is or could be broken down into different types of fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuel. These fuels quickly became very useful to mankind because of the invention of the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine, which wastes 85 to 90 percent of its energy input, is today one of the leading causes of pollution throughout the world. Oil can also be used
for space heating but only has a net efficiency of around 50 percent. Natural gas is one of the newer and more environmentally friendly energy sources because it has less polluting chemicals in it than oil based fuels. It can be used to for space heating or as fuel for certain types of automobiles. These sources continued to have better efficiency and usefulness but the environmental problems also continued to escalate so alternative sources were needed that would provide people with enough energy but at the same time not pollute the environment (Cassedy 6-7).
It was not until around the 1950's that the need for low or nonpolluting alternative sources became a reality. Many ideas were surfacing around this time but the interest and funding were just not efficient enough to make any drastic effects. One of the first and still most popular ways of producing alternative energy...