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Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

Yaroslav Gromov

In present time, the question about sustainable use of natural resources has become very important all over the world. People start to realize that nature cannot provide more resources that it has, and that the natural resources consumed a lot. Therefore, there should be found a way how to solve this particular problem – energy crisis. Consequently, we should answer the question if the widespread of renewable energy is as serious alternative to the use of fossil fuels or not. There is no correct answer to this question, but if we definitely want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it will be better to weighting up the pro at contra. So let us find out the causes why renewable energy is a serious alternative to the fossil fuels.

First of all, fossil fuels are non-renewable. Natural gas, coal and oil are the most common example of fossil fuels, and they are the three main types of fuel that people mostly use and depend on. Seitz (2008) states that ‘according to many analysts the world would not run out of oil, but in a few decades shortages will become prevalent’. According to the Energy Information Agency, approximately 93% of the world’s energy sources are fossil fuels, and renewable energy is just about 7%. (2, 2008) Also burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide, which is the greenhouse gas that leads to global warming and seriously damages our planet.

Secondly, renewable energy sources, such as hydropower energy, solar energy and wind energy are renewable, efficient and non-polluting or causing little pollution. They are simple: all you need is sunlight, running water and blowing wind.

Lastly, expanding the use of renewable energy will have a positive impact on employment, according to more than a dozen independent studies analyzing the impact of clean energy on the economy. Greater reliance on renewable energy would have large, positive impacts on economy, creating significant numbers of new jobs, driving major capital investment, stabilizing energy prices, and reducing consumer costs. (Flavin C. 2006, p.10). By contrast, employment in the fossil fuel industries has been in steady decline for decades, in large measure due to growing automation of coal mining and other processes. (Flavin C. 2006, p.10).

As these three types of renewable energy were mentioned let us discuss them more specific.

Hydropower energy is the most developed technology for renewable energy. The main potential that this type of energy has is that it can be used in multipurpose area. For example, benefits of hydropower are flooding control, irrigation and public water supplies. (6) Hydropower energy is usually generated form falling water, causing little pollution and it is a type of clean energy. Hydropower resources are usually divided into two main categories. As it is mentioned, the first category is resources that require man-made dam structure with high hydraulic heads; the second one is a “run-of-river” system that require minimum dam structure and with low hydraulic heads. (4, 2000, p.44-45). Similarly, World Bank (2004) believes that hydropower can play significant role ‘in poverty reduction in developing countries’. In addition, World Bank (2004) also claims that ‘currently about 19 percent of the world’s electricity is produced from hydropower’ and that the greenhouse gas emissions ‘from most hydropower plants are relatively low’.

It is also important to weight the facts about advantages and disadvantages of hydropower energy. On the one hand, hydropower is a clean energy source. It does not pollute the air like fossil fuels do. (6) Hydropower plays a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The maintain cost is relatively low. It is renewable. The technology is reliable and proven over time. (7). On the other hand, if water is not available, the hydropower plants will not produce electricity. (6) USGS (7) reports that hydropower energy is not perfect and has some disadvantages. For example, ‘high investment cost, inundation of land and wildlife habitat, changes in reservoir and stream water quality, displacement of local populations’.

Solar energy is the second type of renewable energy that was mentioned in this essay. Solar energy is the second most common type of renewable energy. Basically solar energy is the energy of sun. It helps us to survive on our planet, it heats us, it makes threes grow up, and, mostly everything on our planet depends on solar energy. It is possible that ‘our current life cannot continue if we remain economically dependent on fossil fuels’, as Hermann’s (2004, p.4) claims, but as for me, we cannot predict the future and we do not know what will happen tomorrow. So Hermann claims that something is unlikely to happen./p>

It is not so easy to talk about advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. Speaking about advantages of solar energy it is necessary to mention some of them. Firstly, solar cells can be used almost any place around the world. Secondly, solar cells silent and non-polluting. In addition, they require little maintenance and have log lifetime. Finally, solar cells can be easily used in places where there is no main electricity. Now let us move on to the disadvantages of solar energy. The main and most important disadvantage is initial cost. Lastly, solar cells are totally depends on weather, and can be used just during daytime and sun hours. It is because the only time when cells can generate electricity. (9)

The last and possibly most interesting type of renewable energy is wind energy. There is an interesting point about wind energy. Wind is a form of solar energy; it is ‘caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the earth, and the earth’s surface irregularities’ (11). Seitz (2008, 141) reports that wind as an energy source was generally used for power as well as for the cooling houses, adding that wind energy source started to gain respect all around the world. In recent years the widespread of wind energy has been extremely rapid, but, for example, ‘despite that rapid growth, wind energy amounted to less than 1% of U.S. electricity generation’ (10, p.15).

But as any other type of energy wind energy also has advantages and disadvantages. According to the Committee on Environmental Impacts one of the advantages is that ‘wind energy has the potential to reduce environmental impacts, because it does not result in the generation of atmospheric contaminants or thermal pollution’ (10, p.15). Another good point about wind energy is that it is ‘one of lowest-priced renewable energy available today’ (11).

In conclusion there is a very serious question if the widespread of renewable energy is as serious alternative to the use of fossil fuels or not. Three main types of renewable energy were considered. So there is a chance in the nearest future that renewable energy sources will fully displace fossil fuels. It may happen, but not very soon and probably just when there is nothing to extract or mine. Now both renewable and non-renewable energy will be used simultaneously. People are not ready yet to abandon fossil fuels, and are not ready for spending huge amount of money for renewable energy.

References

  1. Christopher Flavin. (2006, September). American Energy. The Renewable Path to Energy Security. Worldwatch Institute.
  2. Energy information administration. Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary Statistics 2008. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/alternate/page/renew_energy_consump/rea_prereport.html
  3. John L. Seitz. (2008). Global issues: an introduction. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  4. Committee on Programmatic Review of the U. S. Department of Energy’s Office of Power Technologies. (2000). Renewable Power Pathways : A Review of the U. S. Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Programs. National Academic Press.
  5. World Bank Staff. (2004). Water Resources Sector Strategy: Strategic Directions for World Bank Engagement. World Bank Publications.
  6. U.S. Department Of Energy. Energy efficiency and renewable energy. Advantages and disadvantages of Hydropower. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/hydro_ad.html
  7. USGS (U.S. Geological Survey). Water use: hydro electronic power. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html
  8. Scheer, Hermann. (2004). Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future. Earthscan Publications Ltd.
  9. Bristol University. Advantages of solar energy. http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2003/ledlie/advantages_of_solar_energy.htm
  10. Committee on Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects. National Research Council. (2007). National Academies Press
  11. U.S. Department Of Energy. Energy efficiency and renewable energy. Advantages and disadvantages of Wind Energy. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_ad.html
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