Energy is the foundation of industrialized world; without energy, life as we know it would cease to exist. The yearly energy and fuel consumption rates have risen dramatically within the last years. This phenomenon is a direct result of globalization pressures, the international information network we call the Internet, and a population that seems to be hitting the dangerous upswing of the Malthusian curve. Although there is not yet a current shortage of conventional fuels, such as reserves of coal, oil and other fossil fuels are limited and non-renewable. In addition, the common practice of burning oil, coal, and other assorted hydrocarbons has resulted in hazardous environmental conditions such as global warming, acid rain and dangerously high air pollution levels. This and other environmental disasters have brought about a demand for alternative fuel and energy sources that are convenient, environmentally friendly, and economically viable. The U.S. Department of Energy defines alternative fuel as fuel that is essentially non-petroleum and yields energy security and environmental benefits. Following are some of the fuels the Department of Energy currently recognizes as alternative fuels methanol, hydrogen, liquid and compressed natural gas, and electric fuel. Alternative sources of energy are classified as energy provided from sources other than fossil fuels. This includes but is not limited to nuclear power, solar power, hydropower and biomass. Currently, many of these alternate sources are in use, but unfortunately they are underused or underdeveloped because of perceived shortcomings or drawbacks. While some of these fuel and energy sources may indeed lack the efficiency or cost effectiveness of the conventional fuel and energy, having a clean living planet far outweighs the cost of clean energy.
Traditional Energy Sources
Fossil fuels are considered conventional sources of energy. Fuels that are primarily petroleum based are considered conventional fuels. The three most predominant fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas, all of which is nonrenewable. Although, natural gas is a fossil fuel, the Department of energy considers it an alternative fuel because of its low petroleum concentrations and environmental benefits. Coal is said to be the most abundant of the three but it is also the most polluting. The first problem begins with extract coal from the ground, this is done through mining. Mining not only disturbs massive amount of earth but the resulting rock waste disturbs the environment. This rock waste produced from mining weathers rapidly to produce acid drainage, which contains sulfur that combines with oxygen and water to make sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid not only contaminants water but it is also the major cause of acid rain. Further, more burning coal releases dangerous chemical compounds into the environment. These compounds not only pollute the air but also contribute to global warming. Petroleum or crude oil is composed of various organic compounds and is found below the surface of the earth. Petroleum provides approximately 40% of the world’s energy. However, many experts forecast that petroleum will no longer be a common commercial material by the mid-21st century, because of declining availability. Crude oil has a heating value of 19,000Btu/lb and gasoline, a product of crude oil has a heating value of 20,750Btu/lb. Not only is crude oil’s availability declining, it also release dangerous gases into the atmosphere. Because of growing energy demands in developing and industrialized nations along with the decline of the conventional sources of energy, it has become necessary to turn to alternative sources of energy.
A biomass fuel is an energy source derived from living organisms. Most commonly, it is plant residue, harvested dried and burned, or further processed into solid, liquid or gaseous fuels. Biomass is a known renewable source of energy since green plants are essentially...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document