Alternative energy can be defined as that coming from any alternative, non-traditional source, which allows using the term “non-fossil-fuel energy” for it as well (York 2012). Traditional fossil energy has nurtured the fast development of our economy, technology, and society, and the breakthrough of the past century was largely dependent on it (Simon 2007). Unfortunately, fossil energy is also notorious for contributing to global issues, especially environmental ones (Unites Nations 2008).
With time, it was discovered that other sources (for example, the wind, sunlight, biomass, water) could also be used to generate energy (Martín 2016), and these new methods proved to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly (United Nations 2016). As a result, the idea of investing in the development of alternative energy became relatively popular, even though the fossil energy is still much more widely used than the non-fossil one (Azelton & Teufel 2013).
In particular, the estimates of York (2012) indicate that fossil energy sources were employed about three times as extensively as non-fossil ones. In other words, the modern world has not given up the less environmentally friendly but more conventional fossil energy.
Alternative energy is not without a flaw, and nowadays, the research in the field is aimed at eliminating these issues (Kaygusuz 2012; United Nations, 2016). The same can be said about fossil energy that is still being developed as a more sustainable and safer means of producing and using it are created (Martín 2016, p. 2).
However, the attractive features of alternative energy proceed to include its ability to mitigate and not contribute to the global issues that our society tries to resolve, which is why the investment in it is justified and worthwhile. I believe that the investment in alternative energy is most significant for the resolution of global issues, and, in my opinion, it is likely to help our world to survive and prosper.
First Argument: Not Aggravating Global Issues
My first argument is that non-fossil resources are much less likely to aggravate global problems than their fossil counterparts. It should be pointed out that particular sources of alternative energy have specific features that distinguish them from the rest; however, certain similarities can be found and used for this discussion. In particular, the Union of Concerned Scientists (n.d.) advocates for the use of alternative energy, and the first argument that they use consists in the fact that this kind of power does not produce as many global warming emissions as fossils.
These emissions, as stated by the Union are not only harmful to the climate; they can also affect our health and environment in adverse ways. For instance, coal produces 1.4-3.6 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per hour, but for solar energy, the numbers are 0.07-0.2 pounds (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d., para. 6). Apart from that, alternative energy production does not typically pollute water and air; if it does (for example, biomass energy), its impact is much lesser than that of fossil plants (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d., para. 9-10).
The United Nations (2008; 2016) keep stating that one of the key goals in establishing sustainable development is the sustainable use of energy. Moreover, according to the United Nations (2008), it is a minimum requirement for our activities to remain safe for the environment. At maximum, they are supposed to be benevolent for the surrounding world. At least five of the seventeen United Nations (2016) Sustainable Development Goals (clean water, clean energy, climate action, life below water, and on land) are also connected to the environment.
Therefore, to fulfill the minimum requirement that the United Nations (2008) establishes for energy use, the investment in alternative energy is necessary. It promotes the use of safer energy and allows substituting fossil-related ones, thus improving the world by not aggravating its problems and preventing them from being aggravated.
Unfortunately, the current state of events appears to indicate that the substitution of fossil energy with the non-fossil one is not easy to carry out. There are several reasons for this fact: fossil energy is much cheaper, more reliable (Simon 2007, pp. 1-2), and its production tends to provide a greater output, which makes its application opportunities greater (Kaygusuz 2012, pp. 1121-1122). Here, reliability refers to the possibility of constant production: fossil energy does not depend on the wind to blow or the sun to shine. The output of photovoltaic units that can be used to convert solar energy to electricity can be affected by a passing cloud (Singh 2013, p. 1).
The technology is being improved, of course; for example, some units can automatically move to capture the greatest amount of sunshine, but they cost more than classic ones (Singh 2013, p. 8). While this fact does suggest that fossil energy may be a better choice (especially for developing countries), it also demonstrates the process of the continuous advancement of technology. Naturally, fossil energy can and should be improved as well to ensure that the key source of power in this world deals with a minimal blow to its environment (Kaygusuz 2012).
However, it appears that the alternative sources are a more promising direction of development, at the very least, because they are sustainable and renewable, and thus are the future of energy production whether we want it or not. Also, it is noteworthy that all the mentioned environmental effects can have an impact on human health. Therefore, fossil energy has hidden costs, and its substitution is necessary.
Second Argument: Resolving Global Issues
My second argument is that alternative energy can also help to resolve global problems. In particular, energy is vital for human society, and with the growth of the population, the demand also increases. Energy is required for the proper quality of life as it improves the quality of food, heating, sanitation, and healthcare, provides power, enables telecommunications, and ensures the supply of clean water (Kaygusuz 2012).
Energy is crucial for production and economy as well, which indicates that the provision of energy can contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the world both directly and indirectly. However, in 2012, 1.4 billion people had no access to electricity at all (Kaygusuz 2012, p. 1116). As a result, the goal of providing affordable and clean energy for people all over the world is one of the United Nations’ (2016) seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
Alternative sources of energy must be inexhaustible (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.). On the other hand, fossils are exhaustible and often non-renewable, that is, capable of replenishing but at a rate that is too slow for humans. Fossils are going to be exhausted, which is why the development of non-exhaustible sources (that also typically happen to be clean) and, therefore, investing in this development, is a key way to resolve the problem of energy provision for the growing population of our planet.
It is noteworthy, though, that the creation of the infrastructure for clean energy production, distribution, and employment is time-, money-, and effort-consuming process. Fossil energy has the necessary infrastructure, especially in developed countries, which implies that it can provide the required energy at a faster rate (Simon 2007). Given the greater reliability and productivity of this type of energy that was mentioned above, it appears that the developed countries should be more interested in fossil energy.
Moreover, since alternative energy requires a greater initial input of resources (time, money, education on the need for sustainable development), the less developed and developing countries (especially those that do have the fossil energy infrastructure) might also be reluctant to develop alternative sources. In the short run, fossil energy is better at resolving the issue of power production for the entire world.
If the prevalence of fossil energy is to be judged by, it appears that these considerations are governing the modern world’s decisions on the use of resources. It does seem that both developed and developing countries tend to choose fossil energy, possibly because it appears to be better at resolving the global issue of energy production in the short run. However, the United Nations (2016) goal does not consist in supplying any energy. The United Nations (2016) are concerned with sustainable and clean energy, and fossil energy is neither of these. In the long run, it will not be able to keep producing such results; fossils are not renewable at a rate that would make such exploitation reasonable.
Moreover, the investment in alternative energy is expected to result in the development of better, more sustainable, and efficient means of producing and using it (Martín 2016). As a result, investing in alternative energy means resolving global issues including the issue of energy supply. In the meantime, the conversion to alternative energy can be facilitated by making this process more prolonged and proceeding to combine the sources depending on the opportunities that the current technology can offer (Kaygusuz 2012).
To sum up, non-traditional energy production tends to have little to none adverse effects on the environment and the substitution of the traditional means has the potential of reducing the contribution of the modern power use to global problems. Unfortunately, this substitution is likely to be a prolonged process since, despite its destructive impacts, fossil energy is cheaper, more abundant, and more reliable in production.
Fortunately, future developments in technology are likely to improve the use of alternative sources, which is, in effect, a requirement for the future of our society since the fossil fuel remains an exhaustible resource. This factor limits its ability to contribute to the resolution of the global issue of power supply production: while in the short run, it is easier to employ traditional methods, in the long run, they will not be available. It can be concluded that, when compared to traditional methods, alternative sources are more likely to help to resolve global issues, and investment in this kind of power is going to facilitate this process.
Moreover, the presented information has led me to believe that alternative energy is not only significant and necessary; its development and use are also inevitable. For the time being, we can combine the use of sources, but in the future, it will become impossible. As a result, I think that investment in alternative energy is not an option; it is a requirement and responsibility.
Azelton, A & Teufel, A 2013, Fisher Investments on energy, Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.
Kaygusuz, K 2012, ‘Energy for sustainable development: A case of developing countries’, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 16, pp. 1116-1126.
Martín, M 2016, Alternative Energy Sources and Technologies, Springer, Cham.
Simon, C 2007, Alternative energy, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Md.
Singh, G 2013, ‘Solar power generation by PV (photovoltaic) technology: A review’, Energy, vol. 53, pp. 1-13.
Union of Concerned Scientists n.d., Benefits of renewable energy use. Web.
United Nations 2008, Global issues: Environment. Web.
United Nations 2016, Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy. Web.
York, R 2012, ‘Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?’, Nature Climate Change, vol. 2, pp. 441-443.