Energy Crisis Related Issues sample essay
When President Bush declared that Americans were addicted to oil, he was right. Americans do not eat, travel or shop without oil. Robert Bryce admits this, but then asks, “So what? ” Almost every other western nation is too, he declares. But Bryce takes the problem too lightly. (Bryce, 2008) There are four answers to Bryce’s question. First, America’s addiction to oil might be contributing to dangerous climate change. According to Romm (2008), it is speeding up global warming.
Carbon Dioxide emissions, he says, cause rising temperatures, which may leave the world barren and desolate, wiping out species and drying up human water supplies. America’s oil addiction also threatens its national security. Indeed, according to Stein (2008), if America continues to purchase oil from unfriendly countries, it could fund the development of military technology, thus allowing its enemies to make and buy weapons and training that could later be used against Americans. According to Stein (2008), Relying heavily on foreign oil is also expensive for Americans, who are left paying whatever OPEC thinks they ought to.
As gas prices go up, so do the prices of everything else in America – even food. Finally, America’s investment in foreign oil might be immoral, since, according to Romm (2008), most of that oil is purchased from undemocratic countries. These countries engage in many practices which the U. S. does not condone. While the problems caused by America’s oil addiction are clear, finding a solution is difficult. There are several potential substitutes for oil that can be produced domestically. For instance, America has its own oil.
Recently, President Bush lifted a ban on off-shore drilling, in order to allow oil companies to obtain oil domestically (Upton, 2008). Another popular alternative is hybridization. Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mercury and Saturn are among the car companies that have already invested in such technology. Using a combination of electricity and gas, the cars produced by these companies can get over thirty miles per gallon. While some oil is still required to fuel these cars, using them reduces the amount of oil consumers will need to buy substantially.
Meanwhile, some counties are moving toward fully electric cars, which would eliminate the need for foreign oil completely (Romm, 2008). Another alternative is bio-fuel. Ethanol – fuel made from corn, has been the most commonly used bio-fuel, and can be produced in the Midwest, rather than abroad. Other crops could also be used to produce oil. The Midwest is also a good place to harvest wind energy. Indeed, windmills and turbines can be placed throughout the United States, where they can be used to produce electricity.
According to Stein (2008), Wind power has already been used successfully in Europe. It accounts, he says, for a fifth of Denmark’s energy. Meanwhile, many congressmen support the “coal to liquid” process, through which coal is turned into gasoline and diesel fuel (Roskam, 2008). Another alternative offered by some scholars and officials is increasing the use of nuclear power. While, according to Upton, France produces 80% of its electricity through nuclear power, and even has electricity to export – using American technology, Americans barely use nuclear power at all (Upton, 2008).
Many have suggested that, in order for America to break its addiction to oil, the federal government must act, either by offering tax credits to consumers who invest in alternative fuel, or by penalizing gas companies and consumers by increasing gas taxes. Indeed, according to Stein (2008), taxing gas can reduce its popularity. Meanwhile, according to Tucker (2006), state governments have begun to step in themselves, seeing that the federal government is slow to act. These states, says Tucker, have begun to invest in solar, wind, landfill gas, and coal mine methane, biomass, along with hydro and geothermal energy.
But which alternatives ought the government –or consumers, for that matter – invest in? Some alternatives are more risky than others, yet some of the alternatives with the greatest perceived risk are the most effective (Tucker, 2006). Representative Boehner recommends off-shore drilling. While he does not believe America has enough oil to fuel cars permanently, he does think such drilling will provide temporary relief to consumers at the gas pump (Boehner, 2008). But what can be done for the long-term? / Roskam advocates the use of coal.
After all, he says, “America is the Saudi Arabia of Coal,” holding perhaps one fifth of the world’s coal supply (Roskam, 2008). According to Roskam, coal is cleaner than it used to be, and can be used to create gasoline and diesel fuel. Coal can also be used to produce electricity (Roskam, 2008). Indeed, Stein submits that the Co2 emissions from coal-powered electricity are much lower than those produced by traditional horsepower (Stein, 2008). According to Romm, creating Hybrid cars is costly, but, he says, if the government aids consumers with tax credits, such cars will become affordable.
Furthermore, according to Romm, electric energy is the only alternative fuel source that costs less than gasoline. “It has a per-mile cost about one fifth that of gasoline, even when made from low-carbon sources,” he says (Romm, 2008, p. 14). He also points to the practicality of a move toward electric energy, stating that Israel and Denmark are already moving toward using fully electric vehicles. Although he does not expect America to jump to fully electric cars so quickly, he says that Americans will make the transition by investing in hybrid cars that can go up to forty miles on just electricity.
Because, he says, most Americans only travel thirty miles per-day, the fuel savings would be substantial. “Cars could pay for themselves in fuel savings,” he says (Roskam, 2008, p. 14). He also nods to Toyota, GM and Volkswagen, who plan to release this sort of hybrid in the next two years. Meanwhile, Representative Upton argues for the use of nuclear power, saying, ““Nuclear power is the cleanest, most efficient, and most reliable source of electricity. ” (Upton, 2008, p. 1) Not only that, says Upton, but nuclear energy can be recycled.
Furthermore, unlike solar and wind power, nuclear energy can be used around-the-clock. France, Upton says, is remarkably energy independent, while Germany, which phased out nuclear power, is completely energy dependent. While the United States is currently independent as far as electricity is concerned, says Upton, we may not be, down the road, if we continue to avoid using nuclear energy. Stein supports Upton’s remarks, saying that NASA scientist Steve Lovelock believes that the only way to escape harmful global warming is to begin using nuclear energy (Stein, 2008).
Yet, each alternative has a negative aspect to it as well. According to Romm, America should not engage in off-shore drilling, because it will not meet the needs of the American consumer, nor will it truly reduce energy dependence, because it will leave Americans addicted to oil, which they will obtain from foreign sources, once domestic sources dry up. Drilling in Alaska, says Romm, “would cut gas prices only 2 cents by 2025. ” (Romm, 2008, p. 14) Romm also sees harm in the use of bio-fuels. “Using crops to make energy is unwise,” (Roskam, 2008, p. 1) he says.
It will not, according to Romm, reduce greenhouse gasses substantially Meanwhile, as energy prices go up and the world’s population increases, while at the same time, climate change makes less land usable, people will need to use the land they have for crops and they will need to use the crops they have for food, or they will starve (Roskam, 2008) Stein (2008) also agrees that using food for energy is not a good idea. Furthermore, according to Asrar, Ethanol has a very high production cost (Asrar, 2007). Romm doesn’t think America’s current hybrid efforts go far enough either.
Current laws, he says, require only that cars get 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This is less, he points out, than what cars get in either Europe or China. “We should aim,” he says, “for all new cars to get more than 100 miles per gallon by 2040. ” (Romm, 2008, p. 14) Meanwhile, Upton admits that the current system for disposing of nuclear waste is not adequate. But he says, if the government invests in it, that waste can decrease, from the size of a soda can, per individual, to the size of a half-dollar (Upton, 2008). According to Stein, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club also sees harm in using nuclear energy.
They will not even consider using the fuel, because they are afraid that an accident could have catastrophic effects, like those brought about by the accident at Chernobyl (Stein, 2008). Environmentalists also worry about wind power. They are afraid that windmills might cause harm to migratory birds. Although, Stein says, harm to such birds could be avoided by making windmills higher, environmentalists also worry that this makes them an obstruction and that placing such technology around America will disturb animal habitats.
They also argue that the amount of land needed to create wind farms will lead to the loss of farmland and recreational space (Stein, 2008). If farmland is lost, Americans could face the same problems they would face if they used bio-fuel. Yet, if land becomes unusable due to global warming, Americans would have plenty of recreational space. According to Roskam (Roskam, 2008), Nancy Pelosi stands in the way of any Coal-to-Liquid programs – not even letting bills providing for investment in such technology come to a vote in the senate.
Yet, according to Stein, coal-to-liquid is not an effective alternative, anyway, as it is still polluting and because synthetic fuel cannot compete with the real deal. Yet, using coal to produce electricity is, he says, a good idea (Roskam, 2008)X. While the experts agree that relying on bio-fuel is more harmful than it is helpful and that drilling will not meet the needs of Americans, most of the other options have some merit. Of all the alternatives, nuclear energy is the cleanest.
Modern technology has made the use of it very safe. France’s successful use of nuclear energy shows that it can be harnessed and effectively used. Therefore, the government ought to invest more heavily in nuclear power. Meanwhile, because America is so coal-rich, the government ought to invest in finding ways to produce electricity through coal more cleanly. Government incentives for hybrid and electric cars ought to be increased, and the government’s requirements for automakers ought to be made more stringent.
Asrar, G. R. (2007). America’s Farms: Growing Food, Fiber, Fuel – And More. Agricultural Research , 55 (4), 2. Boehner, J. A. (2008, July 15). We Need an `All of the Above’ Energy Strategy. US Fed News Service, including U. S. State News . Bryce, R. (2008). Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence. New York: Perseus Publishing. Romm, J. (2008). End This Addiction Immediately: Record gasoline prices are affecting every aspect of the U. S.
Economy, and the nation’s burgeoning energy problems have become a frontline issue in the presidential election. U. S. News and World Report , 145 (2), 14. Roskam, P. (2008, July 14). Energy Independence – A Question of Will. US Fed News Service, Including U. S. State NEws . Stein, S. (2008). Energy Independence is Not Green. Policy Review (148), 3-18. Tucker, P. (2006). Thinking Globally, Acting Locally on Energy Use. The Futurist , 40 (4), 8-9. Upton, F. (2008). Recycling of Spent Nuclear Fuel Offers Great Promise. US Fed News Service, Including US State News .
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