The U.S. oil supply is rapidly diminishing. Alternative energy sources must be implemented because oil is a scarce and non-renewable resource. Each year the U.S. consumes 6.2 billion barrels of oil, equivalent to 17 million barrels of oil each day (Coastal 67). The undiscovered U.S. OCS and gas resources combined with onshore reserves would amount to only 81.5 billion barrels of oil, enough to last for 5000 days (Coastal 75). So the oil crisis is not entirely bad news, the U.S. still has time to implement alternative energy sources such as nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy, solar power, wind power, and geothermal energy, as well as alternative fuels which may be used in existing power plants.
Alternative fuels can be used in existing power plants to conserve the oil supply. Many small plants in the United States, Canada, and some European countries now regularly produce power this way in coal burning power plants using alternative fuels such as garbage, tires, sawdust, and animal dung (Energy 87). Alternative fuels may be used as a temporary relief to the massive consumption of oil in the U.S. Although alternative fuels are not a pollution free choice, they require no new power plants to be built. This method of oil conservation can be used during the transition from oil to alternative energy sources, using existing power plants as new technologies are being developed and deployed.
The first step towards implementing energy alternatives is efficiency. Technology exists for electric trains, high gas mileage, efficient light bulbs, and efficient appliances, even electric cars such as the Hyundai Solara are hitting the market as of 2000. The U.S. is moving towards efficiency, and the oil shortage has caught the publics eye. Efficiency is a primary concern because most of the U.S. energy consumed is created by oil. If the U.S. were to become as energy efficient as Japan, by the year 2020 we would save the equivalent of 45 billion barrels of oil (Energy 24). That is 7 additional years of energy that could be saved for the U.S. In essence it is a year saved, and a year earned, similar to the old adage a penny saved is a penny earned.
Recently a number of projects have been approved for the development and implementation of alternative power sources. For example, there are 35 bioenergy plants, 3 hydroelectric plants, and 15 photovoltaic plants currently in use by the state of Florida providing 1,069,917.1 kilowatts (State F). The most prominent examples of how the government has begun this quest for efficiency is the regulation of fuel efficiency standards. The transportation sector is the biggest consumer of oil in the country demanding nearly 4 billion barrels of oil each year (Coastal 113). Any regulation in the transportation sector creates massive reductions in energy consumption, amounting to less oil consumption. Massive research has been put into developing electric cars and consumers are beginning to see the resulting fuel/electric hybrids coming to the market. Consumers need to make a movement supporting this alternative to ensure a bright future. Electricity is an excellent alternative to gasoline in automobiles, because by may be generated using any of the following methods. This is a starting point and definitely indicates the government is beginning to understand the need to venture onward to new energy sources, thus implementing regulations to extend the amount of time our oil supply will last for.
A prominent alternative energy source the government has been implementing is the Nuclear power plant. By 1989 18 percent of the U.S. energy consumed was generated by nuclear power (Energy 39). Nuclear power is generated by fission which then creates heat to boil water, releasing steam and then powering a turbine, creating no hazardous pollutants. Nuclear power plants cause no harm to the environment and are highly accepted by green organizations. Nuclear plants generate high amounts of electricity from a relatively small amount of uranium, but uranium is also a non-renewable resource, thus eventually creating the same problem as the oil shortage. Nuclear power will become a more widespread form of generating electricity, but in time like the oil supply the uranium supply will eventually be depleted. Another major drawback of nuclear power is the potential risks involved. Should a meltdown occur a whole nation could be threatened with radioactive dust, which causes many sicknesses and abnormal defects in birth. There are, however, renewable resources which may be used to generate electricity.
Renewable energy is generated by sources that are essentially inexhaustible. These energy supplies can be endless resources such as the sun, the wind, and the heat of the Earth, or they can be replaceable fuels such as plants. Technically oil and natural gas are renewable resources but form so slowly that it is consumed it faster than it can form. The sun’s energy can be converted to electricity either directly through photovoltaic cells or indirectly by concentrating the sun’s heat and using it to run a steam turbine (State R). The sun is virtually an inexhaustible resource and would provide many more centuries to come with power. Currently some photovoltaic cell plants are in use, but it is a very uncommon form of generating electricity. New innovations must be made in this area because solar energy looks to be a promising fuel of the future. In the present time solar power is a widespread form of energy production in space because it requires no refueling, only light from the sun, as well as creates no pollution. As long as the sun is present solar power will be continuously available.
Geothermal energy must also be explored. Geothermal energy uses the earths core temperature of 700 degrees Fahrenheit to create steam, then convert it into heat or electricity. Geothermal energy has much potential because as long as the sun remains burning the earth is being heated. U.S. geothermal resources alone are estimated at 70,000,000 quads, equivalent to a 750,000-year supply of energy for the entire nation at current rates of consumption (State G). Geothermal energy should be a more widespread form of energy production because of its great capacity. All basic functions of the earth operate from solar power, and perhaps a lesson from nature is in order.
Hydroelectric plants generate energy from flowing water, a limitless trait of the earth. The water cycle phenomenon is what keeps earths water flowing and its energy can be harnessed as well. Hydroelectric plants date back for centuries of creating power, winding churns, or mixing meal. Hydroelectric production for the U.S. is limited though, due to the amount of flowing water in the nation. Another factor to take into consideration is that the water cycle cannot continue without the sun being present. Hydroelectric depends on solar power as well.
In actuality, yes we do have an oil crisis, but we do not have an energy crisis. The worlds energy production potential remains almost completely untapped, leaving many centuries of energy to come. As long as the sun exists the earth has massive energy production potential. The energy production technologies must be used in harmony with each other to harness the full potential of the sun. For billions of years nature has operated on the sun, and the forces it creates alone. This basic fact of life will be apparent in times to come. The sun must power our earth so that emissions are kept to a minimum and oil supplies rejuvenate to levels once seen. A major aspect the U.S. government and world need to look at is the transportation sector. Developments must be made for new engines which run on renewable resources, namely electricity. Currently the electric hybrid car is relatively new and seems unaccepted as slow and awkward. Gas engines are a tool of the past, and should be replaced by newer rechargeable motors which can be recharged by these renewable resources, rather than filling up the tank with the non-renewable resource available today. This is a landmark that once it is achieved the U.S. and the worlds reliance on oil will disappear, and the oil crisis will come to an end. Nature has adapted to a way to power itself, and man too needs to adapt to a new way. Burning oil is an outdated technology and must be phased out of use, as new energy sources are deployed.
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