Renewable energy may be described as the energy that comes naturally and cannot be exhausted (Goeppert et al., 2012). Examples include wind energy, solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy, waves and rain. This energy may be used in place of the conventional fuels in various ways. They may be used in the generation of electricity, provision of rural energy services and in powering motor vehicles (Battisti and Naylor, 2009). Currently, renewable sources of energy account for more than 15% of global energy consumption. The use of renewable energy has rapidly developed worldwide and this has contributed significantly in various ways. Firstly, it has mitigated on the issue of climate change (Changnon and Bell, 2000). Other benefits include economic benefits and energy security.
Benefits of Renewable Energy
The renewable sources of energy have great benefits. One of the benefits is the reduction of global warming emissions (Chichilnisky, 1994). Unlike the non-renewable sources that produce greenhouse gases, the renewable sources help reduce the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere (Eisaman, 2012). For example, wind energy is said to emit only about 0.04 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour as compared to up to 3.6 pound emitted by coal (Lackner, 2012). Solar energy produces about 0.07 pounds while hydroelectricity produces as low as 0.1.
The use of renewable sources of energy also contributes to improved public health and environmental quality (Cropper and Charles, 1994). The main argument is that the use of some of the non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gas in the production of energy leads to the emission of substances that cause water and air pollution (Seldon and Daquing, 1994). These substances may have adverse effect on human health since they may contribute to neurologic damage and heart attack (Machol, 2013). They may also cause several cancers. The use of renewable sources has been shown to help in the reduction of premature mortality. They would also help reduce the overall costs associated with healthcare. In the United States, the national cost of health associated with such emissions is estimated at $886.5 billion (Rizk, 2013). Therefore, the use of renewable sources would help reduce air pollution and consequently reduce the health costs.
Renewable sources may provide a wide range of constantly replenished energy source. These sources have the potential of providing all the power that a nation requires. The full potential of the renewable energy sources have not been realized in many nations (Kibert, Sendzimir, and Guy, 2009). However, rapidly deployment of the renewable energy sources may help meet the future electricity needs.
The use of renewable sources of energy can also create jobs and contribute to other economic benefits. The main argument is that renewable energy industries are more labour intensive. On the contrary, the industries that use non-renewable sources are more mechanized and capital intensive. Therefore, the use of renewable sources would help create more employment per unit generated. In the United States, these sources of energy support many jobs. The wind energy industry alone has created at least 75000 permanent jobs (American Wind Energy Association [AWEA], 2012).
Another benefit of using renewable sources is the ability to stabilize energy prices. Fossil fuel prices, on the other hand, are subject to fluctuations. They could drastically rise or fall depending on its demand. The use of these energy sources can help provide affordable electricity throughout the country. This is especially the case since the costs of renewable energy technologies have greatly dropped over the years. Despite the great costs of establishing these facilities, the costs of operation are quite low.
Outcomes of Overuse of Fossil Fuels
The overuse of fossil fuels has adverse effects on the environment (Rowan, Sutton, and Jonathan, 2007). This causes global warming and climate change. The burning of fossil fuels causes the emission of greenhouse gases (Baksh and Fiksel, 2003). As the greenhouse gases reach the atmosphere, they form a ‘blanket’ that traps heat in the atmosphere (Carl, 2005). The rise in global temperatures is referred to as global warming (Lu, Vechhi, and Reichler, 2007). Some of the adverse effects of climate change include the acidification of oceans and the melting of the ice sheets (Meehl, 2005). Melting ice could consequently lead to the rise in sea level (Knight et al., 2009).
The Middle East holds the majority of the global oil reserves. In particular, the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is responsible for supplying the fossil fuels to several countries of the world. The thirteen countries include Kuwait, Qatar and Iran. This body also monitors the consumption of oil by the countries and makes adjustments in level of production in order to maintain the price per barrel. Overuse of the fossil fuels could lead to an increase in demand and subsequent increase in worldwide prices (energy crisis).
Fossil Fuel Depletion
Since fossil fuels are non-renewable, they are likely to be depleted. The main issue that arises from this argument is that fossil fuels take a very long time to form and they may not be replenished when exhausted. Fossil fuels are a result of organic deposits that take centuries to form. They include natural gas, oil and coal. Coal comprise of the solid matter that forms over centuries from decaying matter. As more layers of the matter form, they are compacted and exposed to high temperatures. Coal is a result of this process. In case of depletion of these sources, it might take several centuries to replenish (Farzin, 1985).
Greenhouse gases that are emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels tend to wear out the ozone layer (Weart, 2008). This causes the formation of ozone holes that allow harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to penetrate and reach the earth’s surface. These rays are harmful to human health since they may cause diseases such as cancers (Tyndall, 1861). As the pigments in the skin react with the rays, skin cancer is likely to occur.
Formation of Acid Rain
When fossil fuels burn, they also produce sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides (Spahni, 2005). With the overuse of these fossil fuels, the concentration of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere may rise. The reaction between sulphur dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight leads to the formation of sulphuric acid. On the other hand, the nitrous oxides react to form nitric acid. As acid rain drops, it causes destructions. Structures containing bricks or marble are destroyed. Acid rain also affects crops due to the acidification of the soils (Thomas and Rahmstorf, 2006).
Cost of Investing in Technology of Renewable Energy
When thinking of making an investment, an important question to answer is whether the returns from the investment will outweigh the costs. In the case of renewable energy, many companies, manufacturers and retailers have always answered no. Despite having high demands for energy, these bodies have avoided the use of solar and wind energies. The main reason was due to the high costs associated with the adoption of these technologies (Kibert, Sendzimir, and Guy, 2000). Some argued that they bring in more costs both in the short term and in the long term.
However, the costs of investing in the renewable options have come down significantly over the years. This has made alternatives such as wind, biomass and solar more affordable (Aslam, 2006). Many companies that have invested in solar energy have shown their appreciation for the modest return on investment. One of the advantages of making such an investment is the fact that it helps reduce the risk of being exposed to rise in fossil fuel costs.
Despite the fact that the cost of investing in these technologies have gone down, many have questioned the sustainability and profitability of the initiatives (Baksh and Fiksel, 2003). Some statistics have indicated that most of the states in the U.S. experienced increase in the average cost per watt. Between 2005 and 2010, there was an increase in costs at the rate of 4.1% per year. This increase was substantial and it shows that the cost of production and distribution of renewable energy is on the increase (Graves et al., 2011).
Cost of investing in New Technology of Fossil Fuel
The use of fossils fuels have been criticised for a long time because of the many disadvantages associated with it. The major issue is the fact that about 80% of the greenhouse gases are produced from the burning of fossil fuels. However, there are emerging technologies that would be able to ensure that the harvesting and use of fossil fuels would be more environmentally friendly. Such technologies would be employed during mining and during processing (Broadman, 1985). Technologies are also emerging in the automobile industry whereby vehicles can use hydrogen extracted from coal. This is thought to be a great technology due to the fact that it is one of the cleanest forms of energy because it has zero emissions (Mathai, 2012).
New technologies have shed light on the possibility of using alternative fuels. These include the use of batteries, biodiesel, propane, vegetable oil and various other sources (Pearson and Eisaman, 2012). Living organisms and those that have died recently can also be used to produce energy (Musadi, Martin, and Garforth, 2011). They are also referred to as biomass (Southgate, Rodrigo, and Lawrence, 1991). Biodiesel is also extracted from vegetable oil and animal fat. It is a good alternative because it releases fewer emissions and is environmentally friendly (Pennline, 2010). However, the cost of adopting these technologies is high. For example, producing fuel-powered automobiles is very high. This only means that the vehicles would be sold at high prices. Therefore, it would be hard for such technologies to be embraced in many nations.
The use of non-renewable sources of energy has always been a subject of debate. This is mainly because of the many disadvantages associated with them. The use of fossil fuels is believed to have a negative impact on the environment and various scopes of life. On the other hand, the use of renewable sources has been embraced and encouraged. However, this does not come without a cost. The cost of employing renewable sources of energy at a large-scale is high. Some have opted to use technologies to make the use of fossil fuels more environmentally friendly. Therefore, the use of renewable energy is advantageous but costly.
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