Alternative vs. Traditional Fuel Sources

Topics: Wind power, Energy development, Fossil fuel Pages: 7 (2662 words) Published: July 28, 2011
Alternative vs. Traditional Energy Sources

The use of alternative energy sources versus the use of traditional energy sources has become one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most heated debate in recent years. For the purposes of this paper, the term “alternative energy” refers to any form of energy that is not derived from fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources like wind farms, solar cells, hydroelectric dams, biomass fuels, and nuclear power have been considered to be attainable sources that will be able to sustain the global population’s high demands. Traditional energy sources like oil, gas and coal are what the modern world knows and is most comfortable with, as its established fountain of fuel. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks of one power source over another is a complicated process. There are many factors to consider, including everything from understanding the environmental effects of a particular type of power production and consumption, to addressing the power needs of the people and finding methods for delivering the power. Looking at both sides of this issue and surmising which argument seems to hold more water will allow for a reasonable conclusion to be made in favor of one side versus the other. One reason why people support alternative energy sources is because they are better for the environment. As stated in Alternative Energy “Complete elimination of CO2 could occur as early as 2040” (Can). The use of wind farms, solar-electric systems, and nuclear power plants would greatly assist in this elimination as they do not pollute the air with nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, dust or greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. It is believed that the United States should decarbonize itself and stop the spread of global warming. The global population needs to become “Greener”, which is a marketing term that means cleaner, thus no pollution is involved. Alternative energy production does not create damaging environmental impacts, unlike fossil fuel production, specifically oil. A prime example of this environmental devastation was the major crude oil spill in March 1989, with the grounding of the tanker Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, off the Alaskan coastline, spilling an estimated 10.8 million gallons of crude oil (Exxon). Another reason why people support alternative energy sources is because they are renewable. There are many different types of renewable energy sources, including biomass, wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal heat. A prime example of this renewable energy source is solar energy which is naturally supported by the suns strong light as well as heat or wind energy which is naturally supported by the earth’s global winds. Ethanol is also an excellent source of clean and renewable alternative energy. Looking at the article “Exploring new energy strategies” it was reported that a third-generation Texas oilman is leading the way to swapping oil and gas production for cleaner, renewable energy strategies (Jervis). Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources because the earth contains a finite amount of these fuels. Because energy is usable power, the sources of the energy can be used up. For example, if a power plant that generates electricity by burning coal runs out of coal, then it can no longer generate electricity until more coal is put into the power plant burners. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is energy that is replaced at the same rate that it is used. A third argument for the use of alternative energy versus traditional energies is the cost in which it takes to produce it. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute “U.S. nuclear power plants in 2006 supplied the second-highest amount of electricity in the industry’s history while achieving record-low production costs”. When looking at the numbers “nuclear-generated electricity typically clears the market for less than 2.5 cents/kwh (kilowatt hour)…as compared to the production costs...
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