Transition to Renewable Energy
Since the Industrial Revolution, modern society has been dependent on fossil fuels and petroleum products for energy to power the many inventions and technological developments that have made life so much easier in the developed world. However, the planet does not have unlimited supplies of natural energy-producing resources. The oil that we have been mining from deep underneath the ground for approximately two centuries cannot be replenished by the natural processes that accounted for its formation originally. That is because petroleum is a natural byproduct of the decaying vegetations and biological life that lived on the planet millions of years ago.
The gasoline that powers today’s automobiles literally comes from the bodies of dinosaurs and other living creatures that lived long before the emergence of Homo Sapiens roughly one million years ago. The tremendous rate of technological growth, especially in the United States since the 19th century has already used up the largest available portion of the planet’s entire oil reserves. At the current rate of consumption, the world will likely completely run out of fossil fuel-based energy source before the end of this century. Moreover, the use of fossil fuels for energy generates large amounts of airborne carbon and myriad other byproducts, some of which are toxic. These carbon emissions are believed by most scientists to be a principal cause of environmental damage as well as global warming.
In addition to the problems caused by oil shortages, there are very dangerous geopolitical consequences of the fact that oil reserves are not distributed uniformly throughout the world. Instead, they are concentrated in the Middle East where they have made several nations that are otherwise largely backward socially to become tremendously wealthy and influential on a global scale. Throughout the 20th century, much of American foreign policy was a reflection of the need to maintain favorable relations with the Arab oil kingdoms. Today, when radical Islamic factions are engaged in worldwide terrorism against American and Western interests, the continued dependence on their crude oil products are capable of being used as a weapon against us. The Unites States (in particular) must alter many aspects of foreign policy to maintain relations with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The obvious solution is to make the transition away from dependence on fossil fuels that has been debated for decades but never emphasized in a serious way by any U.S. administration. In principle, the future of this nation and of other nations will absolutely require development of sustainable, renewable energy sources instead of oil. In that regard, solar power has become one of the most realistic solutions and it is currently used successfully in several countries and in a more limited capacity in the U.S. with great success. Generally, solar power is based on photoelectric cells that capture sunlight and store its energy in usable forms that can be used to generate various forms of energy.
Electric power is another viable method of replacing fossil fuel energy sources, but there is significant controversy surrounding the most efficient way of producing it. Specifically, nuclear power plants are the cheapest ad most efficient method of supplying large regions with electric energy but they still suffer from a stigma that can be difficult to overcome for policy-makers. In truth, there is absolutely no relation between civilian nuclear power and weaponized nuclear technology. Likewise, nuclear energy plants cannot be used as terrorist weapons. However, past experience in the U.S. And in the former Soviet Union suggest that nuclear energy production may be susceptible to the consequences of human error that could trigger catastrophic contamination of local areas in the worst case scenario. As a result, it is difficult to promote nuclear energy even though it may be the most efficient long-term solution to the energy crisis.
Attfield, R. (2003). Environmental Ethics: An Overview for the Twenty-First Century.
Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Poiman, L.P. And Poiman, P. (2007). Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application. Florence, KY: Wadsworth-Cengage.
Lavelle, M. (2007). “Power Revolution.” U.S. News & World Report, November 5,
Sachs, J. (2008). “Ten Ideas That Are Changing The World.” Time Magazine, March
Zuckerman, M. (2007). “The Energy Emergency.” U.S. News & World Report,
September 10, 2007.
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