Energy is a very important component of the human environment upon which several processes depend on. If analyzed critically and analytically, it is possible to argue that a number of life processes rely on energy; thus, energy supports life. This research focuses on the need to fund renewable sources of energy in promoting environmental sustainability and cutting down the excess energy costs being incurred by almost every country around the globe.
Renewable sources of energy are those who continuously get replenished as they are used and never run out of stock (National Atlas, 2011). They principally include energy from the sun, wind, geothermal sources, water, and biomass sources. Despite the fact that some sources like water, wind, and sunlight are natural and may appear to be free, costs are normally incurred during harnessing, collection, and transportation of generated energy to places where it can be used to do work (EIA, 2011). Research indicates that more than 90% of energy needs were met by the use of wood, more than one hundred and fifty years ago (U.S. Department of Energy, 1997).
In the year 2010, the use of renewable energy in America was found to be eight quadrillions, with about 10% of electricity being generated from renewable sources (National Atlas, 2011). Additionally, 50% of renewable energy is consumed in the production of electricity, whose demand continues to increase. The massive adoption of renewable sources of energy in the U.S calls for more funding since these sources play a major role in energy supply. The most advantageous view about renewable energy is that when these sources are used, the demand for fossil fuel is drastically reduced (EIA, 2011).
Nonrenewable source of energy refers to a source whose supply is limited and is at the risk of getting depleted (EIA, 2011). Although they are widely used compared to renewable sources, these sources have a host of disadvantages to the environment and have widely contributed to major environmental issues like greenhouse pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. They exist in the form of natural gas, oil, and coal (EIA, 2011). According to economic findings, every person in America spends approximately $1900, which is directly channeled towards the purchase of energy annually. This figure translates into 8% of the total expenditure incurred on goods and other services in a single year.
Amazingly, 40% of these funds are used to pay for electricity charges (National Atlas, 2011). In most cases, if not all, community resources leave the country and are paid to regional suppliers of natural gas and oil. Notably, once the resources are spent on purchasing of oil, none is left to foster economic development (National Atlas, 2011). Because this money spent on oil represents money lost from the economy, it reveals that the country continues to drain its economy by hanging on nonrenewable sources of energy.
The main challenge that has always been noted is how the government can meet its huge appetite for energy without affecting the development of the local economy. Even as the government and various states consider ways of keeping their dollars at home for economic development, many of these ideas converge at renewable sources of energy, which enhance economic development and sustainability in an array of ways (Ghosh & Prelas, 209).
Benefits of renewable sources of energy
The sun offers more opportunities for renewable sources of energy as compared to any other option. Solar energy can be applied in lighting and heating homes naturally, generation of electricity, in hot water systems, solar cooling, and in other industrial and commercial applications (National Atlas, 2011). This energy simply refers to the energy obtained from the sun and can have countless applications at home and on a large-scale where the government can invest and cut down its expenditure on oil and coal.
Solar energy production requires solar collectors, which are designed for a variety of energy needs among people. Unlike the use of oil, which is associated with negative effects, the collection and use of solar energy have very few limitations. The only concern about this source of energy is its cost, which is still high compared to nonrenewable sources of energy (National Atlas, 2011). This is associated with its production and storage that require equipment and devices that are costly. Another drawback emanates from the fact that direct current collected needs to be converted into the alternating current before it can be utilized to do work.
Additionally, wind energy is one of the oldest methods of power generation that has evolved through human history. Even though this is the case, very few governments have invested in the harnessing and use of this source of renewable energy. As a result, it does not have a significant impact in most parts of the world as efforts converge towards the use of nonrenewable sources of energy (National Atlas, 2011). Wind power is currently used in diverse ways, including large-scale consumption, unlike early days when it was used to run small windmills. Wind turbines are usually mounted on tall posts or towers to capture most energy, causing rotation that spins the electricity generator.
Wind power generation has become an attractive source of energy as it is the world’s leading energy source in terms of growth. Strategically located, wind power is highly economical and does not pollute the environment compared to greenhouse gases emitted from use of oil and coal (EIA, 2011). Although natural, wind power generation mainly depends on the speed of wind. This requirement favors western regions of the United States, Alaska and the Appalachians. This source of energy contributes 1% of the total electricity needs in the U.S with several efforts underway for its expansion (Anindita, n.d.).
Similarly, hydropower refers to the generation of electricity using water. According to recent research, it is the most common source of renewable energy in America. It requires the storage of water using constructed dams along rivers. This water is then used to turn turbines which are usually connected to spin a generator that produces electricity (EIA, 2011). This kind of electricity is referred to hydroelectricity and it contributes 8% of the total energy consumed in the United States. Most energy plants do not require huge dams as others use small dams or operate by channeling water to move over turbines. In the use of this method, dam construction is limited by factors like human dependence on the river in terms of tourism or human settlement. As a result, this option of energy supply cannot meet energy needs of a nation (EIA, 2011).
These dams also have other benefits that are quite economical. For instance, dams can be used to control flooding of rivers during heavy rains, for recreation and as a habitat for several aquatic species (REToolkit, 2008). Additionally, collected water can be used for irrigation to grow crops in regions which experience low rainfall. All these benefits stem from a single idea of producing power using wind. Hydropower is generally cheap and may attract industrial investors who may require enormous power supply.
Moreover, geothermal power utilizes underground energy to produce electricity. It is commonly done using steam or hot water that is found underground. Accompanied with a few emissions, geothermal energy guarantees uninterrupted energy supply. Geothermal hot water has several applications which include and not limited to heating buildings, in greenhouse farming, drying crops and raising temperatures in fish ponds. Additionally, geothermal heat pumps are highly applicable for domestic and commercial needs especially in space and water heating (REToolkit, 2008). Geothermal energy has several advantages including high reliability, is efficient and pollution-free thus making it environmentally friendly. Regardless of these tremendous advantages, only 1% of consumed electricity is obtained through this technology (REToolkit, 2008).
Lastly, biomass is generated from energy in plants and materials which are derived from plants. These may include: food crops, woody and grassy plants and organic components from industrial or municipal wastes (Ghosh & Prelas, 2009). Biomass serves two major purposes in the American economy. It is considered as the second largest source of renewable energy in the country and plays a major role in waste management. It is believed that farmers specializing in grass and tree production are likely to boost the sector in future. Coupled with efficient conservation technologies, this method of energy production can be used to supplement the country’s dependence on oil and coal which are key contributors towards global warming, a global climate change scourge (Ghosh & Prelas, 2009).
It has also helped in waste management as most of the industrial and municipal wastes are utilized to produce energy. This energy can be used to replace firewood at fireplaces, for electricity generation and conversion into liquid fuels, utilized in the transport sector. During the growth of biomass, an amount of carbon dioxide is released, equivalent of what is used up during the process of power generation (National Atlas, 2011). Biomass can not only be used as a source of electricity but also as a control measure towards the management of greenhouse gases. Moreover, biomass produces minimal environmental pollutants which are far below compared to fossil power supply.
Biomass can also be used to produce two major biofuels, namely, ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is an alcohol which has several applications in beer and wine manufacturing. Due to its reductive property, addition of ethanol in oil products minimizes the production of carbon monoxide and enhances the production of octane (National Atlas, 2011).
Benefits of nonrenewable sources
The first example of nonrenewable sources is fossil fuels, which are mainly made up of oil and gas. Fossil fuels are commonly used in the generation of electricity and running of automobile engines as petrol and diesel (U.S. Department of Energy, 1997. Natural gas is principally used in cooking and heating. Other technologies utilize natural gas to power specific cars. As a threat to many economies in terms of importation, 13% of the world’s oil comes from Saudi Arabia, 38% of coal from China and 22% of natural gas from Russia. Another major source of nonrenewable energy is nuclear power. This type of fuel is derived from radioactive materials like Uranium ores that occur naturally in the ground (U.S. Department of Energy, 1997).
Although nonrenewable sources are considered cheap and easy to use, there are several disadvantages directly associated with them, necessitating adoption of renewable sources that are considered more economical and environmental friendly. From their nature, nonrenewable sources get depleted with time compared to renewable ones whose sources are permanent. Additionally, their scarcity makes them more unreliable and expensive for most economies around the world. With oil and nuclear power production being dominated by a few countries, a lot of resources are spent on importation of oil and oil products. This has created competition among producers leading to wars and unfair markets (U.S. Department of Energy, 1997).
Another major reason why governments have to invest in renewable sources of energy is the environmental impact of nonrenewable sources. The greatest percentage of greenhouse emission is contributed directly by fossil and coal burning, raising the level of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere (Ghosh & Prelas, 2009). This has bred global warming, a major global point of concern that has manifold implications. From change of climate to infections like cancer, global warming continues to threaten human survival on earth. Nuclear power usage has also contributed to proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world. This has led to security threats with countries like North Korea and Iran posing a major nuclear threat (Ghosh & Prelas, 2009).
From the above analysis, it is evident that nonrenewable and renewable sources of energy are used in most parts of the world. Although nonrenewable sources are common, there is every need for countries to fund and invest in renewable sources of energy. This is because of the several advantages, which range from cost effectiveness to sustainable usage.
Anindita, B. (n.d.). Environmental Studies. New Delhi: Pearson Education India.
EIA. (2011). Energy Sources. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Web.
Ghosh, T., & Prelas, M. (2009). Energy Resources and Systems: Fundamentals and non-renewable resources. New York: Springer.
National Atlas. (2011). Renewable Energy Sources in the United States. National Atlas of the United States. Retrieved from
REToolkit. (2008). A Resource for Renewable Energy Development. World Bank. Web.
U.S. Department of Energy. (1997). Dollars from Sense. The Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Web.