Environment

Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Guest Post by American Dream

It is our pleasure to share with you a recent blog post from American Dream. American Dream will be doing a presentation on Solar Energy for your Home, here at EarthConnection, on September 14 at 7 pm.  They are a locally owned company with strong ties to our community here in Cincinnati, but more importantly, they believe like us that the more self-sufficient we become, the more we help our planet. 

We hope you will sign up for their presentation on Thursday, September 14 on our events page and we encourage you to share their article on Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels. It is well-done! 

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Energy is a very important part of everyday life. Anything electricity-related, gas-related and heat-related is connected to the world of energy and fuels.

Imagine a world without energy, electricity, and fuels—your car wouldn’t be able to move an inch, the Internet would cease to exist, and there would be no air conditioning or central heating. The world revolves so much on the use of fuels, that life just wouldn’t be the same without them.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are one of the Earth’s greatest energy sources. The process of creating these fuels began long before the dinosaurs walked the earth. Millions of years ago, tiny plants and animals lived and died in the earth’s oceans. As they died, their bodies would sink to the ocean floor and would eventually be covered by layers of rock, sand and mud. These layers would then be subjected to high pressure for millions of years, thus creating the fossil fuels everyone knows and loves.

The secret to the high-energy concentration that fossil fuels have, is their slow decay rate. The organic matter buried millions of years ago had very little chance to decay, enabling their energy to be stored and later converted to fossil fuels.

The abundance and relatively low cost of these fuels also supply power plants with enough energy to generate electricity for the world. Fossil fuels are also necessary for the production of numerous household products like paints, detergents, medicines, cosmetics, and many more.

Millions of households and businesses around the world use fossil fuels for heating, cooking, and other purposes. In fact, most of the world’s fossil fuel supplies come from the Middle East. It’s good for their economy and enables them to easily engage in business with other countries.

But while fossil fuels have many advantages, they aren’t perfect. They may be extremely helpful and valuable, but they can take millions of years to form and can’t be artificially generated in labs.

Furthermore, fossil fuels give off harmful green gases when burned. Large amounts of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are released into the atmosphere every time power plants burn fossil fuels on a massive scale. This greatly contributes to global climate change and puts everyone at risk.

Is There An Alternative To Fossil Fuels?

If you’re wondering about whether or not fossil fuels are the be-all and-end-all of the fuel industry, they’re not. Renewable energy is a newfound alternative to fossil fuels.

While it hasn’t been in the industry that long, it’s a steadily developing science. Scientists from all over the world are developing new ways of producing sustainable energy from substances that are safe for the environment.

Nowadays, the most common sources of renewable energy come from natural resources like sunlight, wind, rain, tides, geothermal heat, and biomasses. All these are materials that are continually replenished and are safe to use as energy sources.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Renewable Resource?

• Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most abundant and renewable form of energy there is. It’s cheap, you can literally find it anywhere during the daytime, and it can be used for a variety of purposes. Believe it or not, sunlight can be used for heating and lighting homes and buildings, for generating electricity, and more.

The main disadvantage of solar energy is that it’s limited to just a few hours of each day. Luckily, scientists are currently developing ways of storing solar energy so that it can be used even during the nighttime.

While there aren’t enough solar powered devices that could power up an entire society at present, the number of new solar powered inventions is steadily increasing. Soon enough, solar energy will be the world’s leading source of energy and will power millions of houses and power plants all around the world.

• Wind Power

Wind power is one of today’s fastest growing energy sources. It can be used to pump water, generate electricity, and power up wind turbines. The only problem that comes with wind power is the fact that it requires a huge operating area in order to produce large amounts of energy. Windmills take up a lot of space, which limits the usage of wind power on a global scale.

• Biomass

Biomass is the energy produced from organic materials like plants and animals. When these organic substances are burned, they give off energy as heat, which can in turn be used for producing fuels and heating. Modern forms of biomass energy make use of methane gases, ethanol, and biodiesel fuels to supply energy for electric power plants and to serve as fuel for automobiles.

The most unfortunate disadvantage that comes with biomass energy is the burning of trees for warmth. Wood fueled heating causes the cutting of millions of trees worldwide, which puts humanity at a disadvantage.

• Geothermal Power

Geothermal energy comes from the heat the Earth gives off. Hot springs and geysers are one of the most common examples of geothermal energy. While they were often used for bathing and heating homes in earlier times, modern technology has now created ways to generate electricity through the heat they give off.

• Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric energy comes from the movement of water. It’s one of the oldest and cheapest ways of generating power, and is a well-known competitive source of energy. A major advantage hydroelectric energy has is that it doesn’t use fuel. It also has the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for power generation.

Some disadvantages hydroelectric energy has, are major land losses and water evaporation. Large reservoirs also have the tendency to submerge and destroy large areas of biologically rich and productive lowland, which can greatly affect the lives of those who live in the area.

Which Is Better?

Fossil fuels have always been a main source of energy throughout the years. But since they can’t be replenished and can do the environment harm, renewable sources of energy are slowly taking their place.

Renewable energy is paving the way for an environmentally safer means of producing power and electricity. While the two types of energy do have their own advantages and disadvantages, one source definitely stands out. Given the state our planet is in, renewable energy is definitely the best choice when it comes to creating new technologies and ways to save our planet.

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Let’s Say “Yes”

In her most recent book entitled NO Is Not Enough, author and activist Naomi Klein asserts that  “our historical moment demands more: a credible and inspiring “yes,” a roadmap to reclaiming the populist ground from those who would divide us – one that sets a bold course for winning the fair and caring world we want and need.” This is the challenge that is before us. Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, religious or non-religious, we all share the same home, Planet Earth.

The strongest voices throughout history are those that not only stood against something, but that articulated a clear and positive alternative. A few examples:

Jesus: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Dalai Lama: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

John F. Kennedy: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our responsibility for the future.”

Jimmy Carter: “Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good. We are a community. Our individual fates are linked; our futures are intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says: “We can move mountains.”

Pope Francis: “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

The challenge before us today is to resist the negativity that seems to bombard us from all sides and ask ourselves “What kind of world do we want?” We must ask this collectively, but also individually. “What kind of world do I want?” This question can be asked and answered on many levels, but Pope Francis has reminded us repeatedly in his encyclical Laudato Si’ that “Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, which clearly respects human and social dimensions. He continues later in the encyclical with the following: “The current crisis demands a very concrete response. “The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

Here and now we must come together around a vision of the world we want. We must pray about it, talk about it, and be willing to take action to make it a reality.

Let’s say “yes” – Part I – Personal Reflection

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on one or more of the following questions.

Let’s say “yes” to a healthy environment for all…

What kind of environment do I want for myself and my family?

What do I consider essential for a healthy environment?

What are the things that make my neighborhood a good place to live?

What would I like to change in my neighborhood?

Let’s say “yes” to dialogue

Am I willing to listen to the ideas of others – even those with whom I disagree?

Am I willing to hear the ideas of others with an open mind?

Am I willing to invite people to come together to talk about the needs of our neighborhood?  (city, country, and world)

Let’s say “yes” to collaboration

Am I willing to work with others, even those with whom I disagree, for the common good?

Am I willing to offer the gifts and talents I have for the common good?

Am I willing to accept the gifts and talents others have to offer for the common good?

Let’s say “yes” to creating the world we want…beginning in our own neighborhoods

Do I know the people in my neighborhood?

Are there diverse cultures in my neighborhood? If yes, have I taken the time to learn about the cultures of others?

Are there diverse faith traditions? Have I taken the time to learn about the faith traditions of others?

Do I value diversity?

Let’s say “yes” to becoming the change we want to see

What are the values I believe are essential for a healthy and peace-filled environment?

Do I live out of my values?

What are the changes I want to see in my neighborhood? ( city, country, world) and what am I willing to do to make them a reality?

Let’s say “yes” – Part II – Engage with others

Gather a group of friends and neighbors and begin to share the ideas you have for making your neighborhood a better place. Ask for their suggestions and ideas. Really listen to each other.

Let’s say “yes” – Part III – Take action

Choose an idea that you all agree on and make it a reality. Start small, but keep talking, keep dreaming and keep acting.

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More Jobs and Clean Energy

The United States joined more than 190 countries in signing the Paris Agreement and publicly professing our willingness to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. At the opening of the Paris meeting in December of 2015 President Obama addressed the gathering. “I have come here personally”, he said, “as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases to say that the United States not only recognizes its role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.” Specifically the US committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level in 2025. That would include curbs on carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perflurocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride, all of which contribute to the warming of the planet. This could be accomplished through a combination of laws, regulations and incentives.

This commitment was made to the people of the world and for the next President not to honor it, in the words of economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a senior adviser to the U.N “would mean blowing off the whole rest of the world and I don’t think the United States would find another partner to do that. We would just be the renegade state on the world stage.”

President Trump’s proposed budget seeks a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan. It is important that those of us who recognize the danger of not moving towards clean energy sources speak not in generalities, but in specifics. At a time when the rhetoric from Washington blames environmental regulations for job losses and perpetrates the myth that climate change is a hoax, it is not enough to simply talk about saving the planet. Obviously that is the ultimate goal, but in the meantime people are concerned about health and job security. Therefore, it is important to show that climate change solutions can contribute to quality of life here and now, not just for future generations.

According to the 2016 US Energy and Employment Report (USEER) from the US Department of Energy (DOE), solar energy employed more people than the traditional coal, gas, and oil combined. “Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the electric Power Generation sector,” the report released this past January states. It continues, “This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity.” The report noted that 6.4 million Americans now work in the energy industry and in 2016 added 300,000 new net jobs, which made up 14 percent of the entire job growth of the US for the year.

The report also showed that there is an upward trend in energy efficiency across several industries. Data show that almost 32 percent of the US construction industry was working on energy or building energy efficient projects. Of the 2.4 million people working in the Motor Vehicles industry, the report identified 260,000 jobs supporting alternative fuel vehicles, an increase of 69,000 jobs in the last year. The USEER also surveyed energy industries across the country and asked them to predict projected job growth in the energy industry in 2017. The results of the survey predicted an increase in hiring across many industries within the energy sector. It is important to note that the survey also indicated that the highest growth rate over the next 12 months, a 9% increase or 200,000 jobs will be in the energy efficiency sector. David Foster, DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy, stated that “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America.”

Kumar Venkat, founder of Clean Metrics Corporation notes that “Cutting fugitive methane emissions in the oil and gas industry could be done with existing technologies that have a short payback period due to the economic value of the recovered methane. But in general, curbing methane and black carbon emissions will require regulations that simultaneously address public health and climate change. The EPA under the Obama administration did just that last year with a rule targeting methane emissions from new or modified oil and gas wells.”

According to Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, “More than 250 coal plants-almost half of the total number in this country-have announced in recent years that they will close or switch to cleaner fuels. Washington isn’t putting these plants out of business; the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan hasn’t even gone into effect yet. They are closing because consumers are demanding energy from sources that don’t poison their air and water, and because energy companies are providing cleaner and cheaper alternatives.”

World leaders spoke out in Paris on the importance of acting on climate change now. Below is a representative sample of their comments:

“Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind…Let us join hands to contribute to the establishment of an equitable and effective global mechanism on climate change, work for global sustainable development at a high level and bring about new international relations featuring win-win cooperation.” –President Xi Jinping, China

“To resolve the climate crisis, good will, statements of intent are not enough. We are at a breaking point.” –President Francois Hollande, France

“Governments must show the strongest leadership to limit the effects of climate change which we strongly believe is also the cause of radicalism and terrorism…” Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu

“For Honduras, climate change is a matter of life and death. The figures don’t add up…we are not all equally responsible.” President Juan Hernandez, Honduras

“Small steps will no longer do. The biggest steps need to be taken by those with the biggest boots.” President Sauli Ninisto, Finland

If jobs and health are priorities now then we need to speak loudly and clearly about how keeping our commitment to the Paris Agreement and reducing our use of fossil fuels and increasing research on and use of alternative energies will create more jobs and provide a cleaner, healthier environment now, as well as create a habitable planet for future generations.

 

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