The need for alternative energy was understood after fossil fuels like coal and petroleum failed us in many ways.
-Coal has been mined at Resavica for around 150 years. Here (see picture to the left) a battery-electric locomotive shunts two tubs of materials into the railway workshop area. There are adits on both sides of the river at this location, one of which is off camera in the bottom left of this view. Photo is by tarboat.-
Coal has a glorious past. It is often referred to as the ‘first fuel of the industrial revolution.’ After decades of endless use of coal, sadly enough, we are now paying the price.
What research proved about coal was also true for all other fossil fuels. The environment was getting polluted, global warming was increasing, and alarmingly, the ozone layer was depleting.
Importance of Alternative Energy / Fossil Fuels – What Went Wrong?
The term ‘fossil fuel’ refers to fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. They are prefixed ‘fossil’ because their source (carbon and hydrocarbons) was found in earth’s crust. In layman’s term, fossil fuels are the remains of animals and plants that lived up to millions of years ago. Most importantly, fossil fuels are non-renewable.
In earlier times, we heavily relied on wood for all our energy needs. Deforestation became a regular phenomenon and we worried about planet earth. And then coal was discovered, an efficient alternative to wood. Later we found petroleum.
During this period we thought our energy needs had been taken care forever. Industrial revolution ensured that their usage spiked through the sky.
However, after never-ending mining and ‘drill baby drill,’ we realized that there is was limitation to how much we can use them. Because one day, the mines will be empty and drilling pipes would dry out. Over the years, their demand has been far outstripping their availability.
The other thing that shook us was the irreversible harm that done to the environment. We are left with acres of destroyed shorelines and ocean beds, forests and wildlife.
Combustion of fossil fuels emits harmful gases like sulfur dioxide (causing acid rain) and carbon monoxide (contributing to greenhouse effect). Due to the adverse affects, the globe is heating up and the polar ice caps are melting faster.
Importance of Alternative Energy / The Other Concern
Oil prices touched record US $147 last year. People are trying harder than ever to make ends meet and get gas filled in their cars. Speculators have tied the skyrocketing prices to ‘greedy oil companies’ or ‘OPEC.’ But the reality is that due to our excessive dependence, the availability of oil is now no match to the demand. And with demand overpowering supply, prices will continue to rise dramatically.
Importance of Alternative Energy / The Solution
It is essential to understand the term ‘alternative energy’ for realizing the importance of alternative forms of energy. The term ‘alternative energy’ implies energy that is used as an alternative to using fossil fuels.
The dictionary defines ‘alternative energy’ as ‘solar, wind, or other renewable energy, that can replace or supplement traditional fossil-fuel sources, as coal, oil, and natural gas.’ Though nuclear energy is also a safe energy form, it is often not included in the ‘alternative energy’ category because of its feared radioactive waste.
Wind, water and sun are never ending source of energy. However, the biggest advantage of using them is that they don’t harm environment in any way. Importance of alternative energy thus becomes paramount. We have already enjoyed benefits of using water energy. Hydro-electricity is increasingly being used throughout the world.
These renewable energy sources can be easily used to turn turbines in a generation process and thus replace oil and natural gas. As for wind and solar energy, the technology related to reaping energy out of these is still in development phase. Money spent on the research and setup is huge. However, once the technology is perfected, these sources will prove to be the most cost effective.
Geothermal energy is also being considered a good renewable energy source; however its implications are still under research. Another energy source that looks promising is bio-diesel (diesel-like product extracted from plants).
In engine, bio-diesel burns like the ordinary diesel, and thus is an eco-friendly substitute. With the advent of electric cars, even electricity is being considered as an alternative fuel.
Importance of Alternative Energy / A Limitation
Alternative energy sources do have some disadvantages. Most of the alternative energy sources are location specific. For instance solar energy can be used only where there is good exposure to sunlight. Similarly, hydro-electricity can be generated where there is ample amount of flowing water, and so on.
Importance of Alternative Energy / What Can We Do?
People are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of alternative energy. To solve the energy crisis that world faces today, it’s important that we give alternative energy a chance. And most of all, try lessening our dependency on energy sources.
This can be done by making little changes in the mundane everyday activities we do. Make recycling part of our daily routine. Use organic or eco-friendly products like home cleaner or waterless car wash.
Another thing that individuals can do is support alternative energy companies by using the products that they develop and manufacture.
And remember, the best alternative energy is human muscle power! Avoid using electric or other appliances for things that you can do with your hands. Start the drive by driving bicycle to work today!
For more information on the alternative energy follow these links: