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Energy Conservation

By jlg_713 Oct 07, 2013 2381 Words
Joe Garcia
Energy Conservation

It would be hard to imagine a life without the use of energy. So many of the products that we use on a daily basis are powered because of electricity, which in turn is generated because of energy. American’s use a mixture of different energy sources to cool and heat our homes, offices, and means of transportation. We also use energy sources to illuminate and power these same places. Oil has provided the United States with less than 50% of energy needs and supplies almost 97 percent of the energy used for transportation (Dale and Kluga, 1992). There are two sources of energy that we depend on: renewable and nonrenewable energy. Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural sources which is constantly renewed. Some examples of renewable energy are wind, water, sun, vegetation, and geothermal. Nonrenewable energy comes from natural resources that are unable to be replenished like, fossil fuels i.e. oil, gas, and coal. Also, a large percentage of electric power that is located in the United States primarily comes from nuclear power plants. Current plants that operate possess a significantly large amount of waste disposal problems which in turn mean that there are currently no plans of building any additional nuclear power plants. A mass amount of electricity is generated because of the burning of nonrenewable energy sources. Due to this massive problem, the conservation of energy is a process we need to take more seriously. Being able to conserve energy will ensure the use of nonrenewable sources for our future generations. Among the different renewable energy options, wind energy is one of the fastest growing power technologies in the world. Because wind energy is clean and fuel-free, it has become an attractive solution to the world’s energy challenges. It has already become a mainstream energy source in many countries around the world. This is due to the fact that efficiency and production capabilities of wind turbines have increased thanks to the dramatic growth of the wind industry and major advances in technology. Wind energy has a growing rate of 30% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of over 100 GW (EWEA, Dec. 2, 2008). Based on an annual study made by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), only 4% of the U.S. energy is being produced by wind in 2006. Another study made by the Department of Energy’s report concludes that the U.S. possesses sufficient and affordable wind resources to obtain at least 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030 (New wind agenda, Dec. 2, 2008). Another fast growing renewable energy resource is Geothermal energy, this is the energy from the Earth. What could be more natural or plentiful? The source of geothermal power is the heat contained inside the Earth; heat so intense that it creates molten magma. There are a few different types of geothermal energy that can be tapped. "Some geothermal systems are formed when hot magma nears the surface (1,500 to 10,000 meters deep) directly heats groundwater." The heat generated from these hot spots flows outward toward the surface, manifesting as volcanoes, geysers, and hot springs. Naturally-occurring hot water and steam can be tapped by energy conversion technology to generate electricity or to produce hot water for direct use. "Other geothermal systems are formed even when no magma is nearby as magma heats rocks which in turn heat deeply-circulating groundwater." In order to maximize the energy gleaned from these so-called "hot dry rocks," geothermal facilities will often fracture the hot rocks and pump water into and from them in order to use the heated water to generate electricity. Despite the fact that geothermal energy is abundant renewable, and able to reduce our dependence on imported fuels, the fact remains that fields of sufficient quality to produce economic electricity are rare. In addition, many of those that are known are located in protected wilderness areas that environmentalists want to preserve. Unless research and technology join forces to "harvest" geothermal power through non-traditional means, such as deep-crustal drilling or the acquisition of heat from magma, the tapping of geothermal energy is limited to a handful of locations. Nonrenewable energy or more specifically, fossil fuels, is a huge contributor to the greenhouse effect. When fossil fuels are burned, the gases they give off contaminate our air and water supplies. When carbon dioxide is produced, it gets trapped into the atmosphere and sort of acts like a thin, invisible blanket that contributes to global warming. Global warming affects the weather dramatically and possibly is a threat to human health, rising sea levels and the growth of some vegetation. If the growth of vegetation is compromised, then the life of certain animals is too compromised which could result in extinction. If every family took the extra time and effort, the global issues that we currently have could start to dwindle and improve the environment. In the United States, the average family can generate around 10,000 pounds of air pollutants every year. So, for every kilowatt of electricity that is conserved, that reduces the environmental impact of energy that is used. The environmental impact of the fossil fuel coal industry includes issues such as land use, waste management, and water and air pollution caused by the coal mining, processing and the use of its products. In addition to atmospheric pollution, coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually. There are severe health effects caused by burning coal. According to the reports issued by the World Health Organization in 2008 and by environmental groups and 2004, coal particulates pollution are estimated to shorten approximately 1,000,000 lives annually worldwide, including nearly 24,000 lives a year in the United States. Coal mining generates significant additional independent adverse environmental health impacts, among them the polluted water flowing from mountaintop removal mining. The combustion of coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Electric generation using coal burning produces approximately twice the greenhouse gases per kilowatt compared to generation using natural gas. About one fourth of the carbon dioxide emitted is absorbed by the oceans, causing a steadily increasing ocean acidification. Coal mining produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is the naturally occurring product of the decay of organic matter as coal deposits are formed with increasing depths of burial, rising temperatures, and rising pressure over geological time. A portion of the methane produced is absorbed by the coal and later released from the coal seam during the mining process. Methane accounts for 10.5 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions created through human activity. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a global warming potential 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeline. The process of mining can release pockets of methane. These gases may pose a threat to coal miners, as well as a source of air pollution. This is due to the relaxation of pressure and fracturing of the strata during mining activity, which gives rise to safety concerns for the coal miners if not managed properly. The buildup of pressure in the strata can lead to explosions during (or after) the mining process if prevention methods, such as "methane draining", are not taken. There are a number of different concepts that can reduce a family’s utility bill and other energy costs over one year’s time. Doing a variety of these concepts will not only save you money, but will affect the environment in a positive way. One concept that could easily be done is installing compact fluorescent light bulbs that use less energy. Fluorescent bulbs have a longer life span than incandescent light bulbs do and they save a large amount of electricity. Another concept would be to recycling items such as newspaper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. Recycling requires less energy than producing them from brand new therefore making recycling a better option for conserving energy. Insulating your walls and floors in your home, washing clothes in cold water (large loads only) and using energy efficient appliances are all additional ways to conserve energy in your home. Sometime around 1990, almost 17 million barrels of oil were used in the United States per day. Coal happens to be the second largest energy source that supply’s a large percentage of the United States’ primary energy needs. The U.S. contains more than 25 percent of the world's known coal reserves, which represents 90 percent of all known U.S. fossil-energy resources (Dale and Kluga, 1992). The most expensive form of energy is electricity because it uses around 40% of the fuel sources that are consumed in the United States. Some of the governments throughout the world have decided to set goals and targets to increase the generation of renewable power. Although many of the governments have made a plan to do this, it is a very difficult process to begin. It would be like the construction of a new home; meetings would have to be had, approvals to be made and permits to obtain. A majority of citizens are opposed to renewable energy projects. Despite the support for a more economical/ greener way of doing things, countries like the United States, Canada and even Europe are fighting these new movements. Although a majority of these projects are already funded, they could be extremely damaged if the community’s concerns are not addressed in a timely matter. It seems as though the opposition to renewable energy projects seem like citizens just do not want to see or be bothered with the construction of what is to come. These ill-informed or selfish thoughts, make the community that was all for the project, go against their first thoughts. However, studies show that when the community is properly informed, that the ‘eye-sore’ concept poorly explains their opposition. Studies show that in Europe, community opposition was because landscape was more important to the community than proximity to a wind farm. This is a suggestion that proponents should be careful when considering/creating visual impacts and presentations. However, visuals are not the main reason as to why communities are opposed to energy conservation projects. Studies show that some communities are opposed because they believe that these projects will somehow affect the water quality, while others would prefer to preserve the land the projects will occupy. In either case, there are concerns that are also centered on the distribution of benefits and risks arising from the development (Hill and Ferguson-Martin, 2010). It is also concluded that projects that seem to be forced upon a community are likely to fail. As the population grows the increasing per capita energy demand results in higher energy use. The management of energy conservation provides a way to minimize the cost of energy. When properly used, energy conservation can pretty much eliminate the demand for building new power plants and reduce the amount of cost it takes to import extra energy from surrounding countries. Sometimes conserving energy is seen as more of an environmentally friendly way of handling the problems we have with energy rather than increasing the output of energy we have from existing resources of production. It is most important to manage energy conservation when it comes to things such as industrial, residential and transportation sectors. Transportation accounts for a large percentage of energy usage. If government officials were to take energy conservation more seriously, they might impose higher taxes on vehicles that use large amounts of fuel per mile for example. They may also invest in research to create an engine with better energy efficiency. They could also encourage the community to start increasing their consumption of local produce. This would reduce the amount of traveling large, industrial sized vehicles would have to do, which in turn would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted in to the atmosphere. The industrial sector is also capable of energy conservation, if they so chose to do it. To conserve energy, the industrial community could endorse an efficient building design, reduce the amount of air conditioning they may use during hotter months by providing an improved source of ventilation, or they may simply change the light bulbs they use from iridescent to fluorescent. For the residential sector, energy conservation is often motivated by the reduction in the cost of energy bills for individual householders. Some common ways to minimize residential energy usage includes installing energy efficient appliances, improving insulation throughout the house and installing double paned glass windows. The windows reduce the amount of cold/hot air from entering and exiting the house. I believe that it is important for all people to realize the need for conserving energy. It is impossible for all the natural resources we have left, to last with our constantly advancing civilization. Our energy supplies are limited and will not last much longer unless we decided that something needs to change. Conserving energy is the only way that we will be able to take advantage of renewable energy sources in the future. This world has been experiencing environmental crisis that we only have ourselves to blame for. The way we treat the environment and our ecosystem, is the only reason why we are running out of our energy sources, especially here in the United States. Many of the communities throughout the world take advantage of the bounties that nature has provided only because they think that they will never diminish or run out, however, that is not the case. Due to our naivety, the world is suffering now in more than one way. Not only are our resources depleting, but because of the alarming rate we used those resources, the world is suffering from global warming, Although many organizations and even the government have made efforts to save the earth, those efforts are not enough. It is going to take the effort of the entire world to make a difference. Once that happens, I believe that conserving energy and changing the world for the better, will actually be possible.

Reference Page:
Dale, J. C., & Kluga, Theodore. (1992). Energy Conservation: More than a Good Idea. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 33(6), 30. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global. eHow. (2010). Government and Conserving Energy. Retrieved from EPA. (2010). Energy Conservation. Retrieved from Hill, S., & Ferguson-Martin, C. (2010). Energy's Backyard Bugaboo. Alternatives Journal, 36(1), 11-15.

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