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The Future of Alternative Energy Sources

Zack Roy, Writer

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As a strong advocate for the fight against global climate change, I believe it’s time to start moving away from the everyday uses of fossil fuels for energy. We have multiple alternatives to the harmful resource, and the ones I’ll be discussing today are what I believe to be the best alternatives.

What are Fossil Fuels?

Before I move into the alternative energy sources, what exactly are fossil fuels, and why is it such a big deal that we’re using them? Fossil fuels are resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, and are used to power all sorts of vehicles, from cars to jet planes. In addition to that, they are also used in factories to create electricity and products. We started primarily using them back in the Industrial Revolution, a period between the mid-1700s and 1800s, and they are now our main resource for energy. Here’s why this needs to change. Not only does the obtaining, distribution, and usage of fossil fuels cost over $700 billion dollars per year, but the personal health and environmental problems they cause is staggering. In fact, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Sulfur dioxide emissions, primarily the result of burning coal, contribute to acid rain and the formation of harmful particulate matter.” In other words, dangerous chemical compounds like sulfur dioxide are being emitted into our environment. And before you assume that it’s just the factories that are causing this pollution, think again. Pollution is also released from industrial waste, litter, smelting substances, and especially mining, where most of the obtaining of these chemicals takes place. Conserve Energy Future states, “The most hazardous chemicals that are found near these sites are lead, chromium, asbestos, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.” These are insanely dangerous chemicals to have emitted into our environment, and it only adds to the point that we need to start using alternatives. So with this topic out of the way, let’s start discussing some of the much better energy sources to replace fossil fuels.

Solar Panels

This is a no-brainer. Solar panels are the most popular alternative energy source around, and for good reason. Solar energy alone has cost the federal government about $150 billion, which is much less expensive than the $700 billion per year we’ve spent on fossil fuels. In addition, “while in use, solar panels create absolutely no waste or emissions. Unlike fossil fuel power plants, they produce clean, renewable energy from a fuel source that requires no locating, excavation, transportation, or combustion,” according to RGS Energy. All of these significant advantages prove solar energy’s greater safety and efficiency compared to fossil fuel energy.

Geothermal Energy

This is, by far, the simplest alternative, but still much more efficient than fossil fuels. This is simply using the Earth’s heat as an energy source, and the obtaining and usage can be achieved by spending as little as $10,000 on standard geothermal power plants, which are more than enough to support it. It, like solar energy, emits no harmful chemicals or pollution into the environment and is completely safe for our health. In addition, this energy source is already being used and encouraged around the world. “According to backers of geothermal technology like Google, this carbon-neutral, inexhaustible energy source could meet 15 percent of America’s electricity needs by 2030,” as stated by How Stuff Works. This is yet another alternative energy source much safer and more efficient than fossil fuel energy.

Hydroelectric Energy

Many people don’t know this, but even running water is a source of energy. This is my personal pick for alternatives, and it baffles me that this source never replaced fossil fuels to begin with. Allow me to explain. “The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity,” according to Renewable Energy World. There is nothing new to be done here! We have had dams and water turbines for decades, so it puzzles me that this energy source wasn’t utilized sooner and as a replacement for fossil fuels. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late now. And if you’re wondering about the cost of utilizing this energy source, “Hydropower is the cheapest way to generate electricity today. That’s because once a dam has been built and the equipment installed, the energy source, flowing water, is free. It’s a clean fuel source that is renewable yearly by snow and rainfall,” as stated by National Geographic. So as long as rainfall and snow still exist and we continue to support the stability and construction of dams and turbines, then there will be no problems in regards to the cost.

Wind Energy

Most know of wind energy; it’s simply using the power of the wind to produce energy. This is yet another alternative energy source that would cost much less than fossil fuels. “A 10 kW wind turbine costs approximately $48,000 – 65,000 to install. The equipment cost is about $40,000 and the rest is shipping and handling,” according to Bergey Windpower. This is insanely inexpensive compared to the $700 billion usage of fossil fuels each year. Once again, this alternative also doesn’t produce or emit any noxious chemicals like fossil fuel energy does, and it’s much cleaner to install and operate. And one of the most significant advantages of using wind energy is that it can be successfully utilized in rural areas, unlike many other sources.

Other Alternatives

That’s not the end. There are many other alternatives to using fossil fuels that I didn’t think were completely worthy of making it into the above list, but I still think they deserve a quick mention. So I’ve compiled some of them into a list below.

1. Biomass Energy: This one is very fascinating to me, and while I see many of the others as better energy sources, I wanted to add it here. It uses the power of plants and other natural organisms to create energy.

2. Tidal Power: I didn’t add this one to my main list because it technically falls into the hydroelectric category, but I still think it’s interesting since it incorporates the use of natural flowing water rather than dams to create energy.

So these are all of my personal picks and reasons for the replacement of fossil fuel energy. I hope you enjoyed reading, and if there’s something you disagree with, I’d be happy to discuss it with you in the comments.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “The Future of Alternative Energy Sources”

  1. Dave Snavely on March 2nd, 2017 11:17 am

    Blue Fire Renewables can use ANY organic matter and turn into ethanol. Garbage is good start….

    [Reply]

  2. Emerson Cobbs on March 31st, 2017 10:34 am

    The future is coal.

    [Reply]

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The Future of Alternative Energy Sources