Energy Sustainability in the United States
When a switch is flipped, or a power button depressed, results are expected. Many daily activities rely on electricity. Without energy, drastic changes to human life would have to be hastily made. The electricity that is wired to our houses is taken for granted and the majority of discussions about conserving energy are stemmed from the arrival of the electric bill. People need an increased desire to change the environment to fuel changes in energy sources. Educating ourselves about energy and alternatives is the beginning step to a safer, cleaner, healthier world.
There are several problems surrounding the use of energy and the production of energy. The United States is currently consuming more energy than it produces. Therefore since 1958, according to Science Fact Finder, the United States has been importing the remainder of necessary energy. This process of purchasing extra energy lends to an increase in the cost of energy. Other methods used to obtain energy are through the use of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. These are non-renewable resources and there is danger of depleting these resources to an unusable point. This is detrimental to the environment and a solution is currently being demanded worldwide.
Another part of the problem is the pollution which is emitted during the production of electricity. The smoke produced when burning coal at power stations is released into the atmosphere. This increase of waste in the air is a serious contributor to reduced air quality. Air pollution is one of the most difficult pollutions to contain and reduce because the pollutants begin to spread out as soon as they are released. It is important that changes are made to protect air quality because all life on Earth needs air to survive. By reducing energy produced in plants, we will be able to dramatically reduce air pollution.
Nuclear power creates several problems for our environment. Though it is a very efficient way to produce energy, all materials used in production of nuclear energy are then contaminated with radiation. The best solution for decontamination is containment; however this process may take many thousands of years and constant monitoring to prevent leaks. The waste produced at nuclear power plants is considered high-level radioactive waste. ???High-level radioactive wastes are among the most dangerous human-made hazardous wastes (Wiley, 2010).??? Though there are constant improvements being made for nuclear power, perhaps the safest improvement would be to eliminate these hazardous wastes from being produced and stop relying on this type of power.
While there are obvious problems related to the production of energy and the waste produced, a major concern is the effects on the environment as we continue to harvest these non-renewable resources. Mining for coal and drilling for oil create many disturbances to the natural environment. In the area surrounding harvest sites, roads must be built to allow machinery access. Also utilities are pumped, piped, and wired into the buildings which are set up onsite. There are other ???invisible??? changes to the environment as well. Some of these include interruptions of water flow, and increased waste material that drains into the surrounding environment. Often oil is drilled in off-shore areas. Even at the most efficient drilling sites, leaks are often unavoidable. This creates one of the largest environmental upsets; oil spills are serious threats to animals, fish, birds, people, wetlands, and the ocean. A spill can have lasting effects on the environment for several dozen years, depending on the severity. Drilling and mining are dangerous ways to obtain fossil fuels, but will continue unless a viable alternative is available.
Acknowledging the problems associated with current energy production methods is the first step to improving energy for the future. Nature has many wonderful things to offer humans, and one of the items available is free energy. Current sustainability strategies in the United States are severely underdeveloped. Although there are several ???bills and acts??™ in proposal stages, they are not currently providing actions to support cleaner air and sustainable energy which are demanded by our existing situation. The plans contained in these bills and acts in progress are thorough and provide promise of sustainability. One current plan is the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). The problem with ACES is that ???it lacks detailed planning around how sustainability will be achieved (Lecklider, 2010)???. However it is still many years before these plans are acted upon and constant changes in conditions mean constant changes to the plans. The time necessary for the government to work out the problems in the current plans will mean that the plans??™ effectiveness will suffer. The time to begin is now and further delays only stand to increase the problems which people are now enduring.
Sustainability can be obtained in just five years through the cooperation of many companies and the local and federal governments. It is essential that progress begin now, to prevent more damage and pollution to the environment. During the first stage of this sustainability plan, which will span approximately six months to one year, there will be two main objectives. The first is to develop solar and wind harvesting technology to reduce the cost to consumers and increase efficiency. During this research process it will be important to also test several methods of storing energy for later usage. This is essential for ensuring availability of energy during times which the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. The second objective of this first stage is to begin educating the public on the multiple facets of energy. There should be information available to all classes, races, ethnicities, and in several languages. If people understand how terrible current energy methods are for the environment, then they will be more supportive of changing to a renewable source. Also during this first stage, the government should begin formulating plans, rules, and regulations regarding financing and incentives. Local communities can plan for any major changes necessary at public buildings and for emergency service centers (Stroud, 2010). After stage one has been completed, it will be time to continue moving forward.
Jumping in to the second stage with a rapid pace is essential to achieving sustainability. The second stage will encompass two or three years. During this stage, improved technology for harvesting solar and wind energy needs to begin mass production. To prevent massive disruptions to the economy, the newly created production jobs should be offered to current mining, drilling, or power plant workers. Though many power plants will have to remain operational during this transition stage, it is highly likely that a drastic reduction in the collection of fossil fuels will occur. This transition process will also create many jobs for the installation and maintenance of new energy harvesting technology (Stroud, 2010). Also during this second stage, the United States can begin negotiations with other countries who may wish to purchase the projected excess energy collected through this program. This will create another positive incentive for citizens to begin harvesting their own energy. The opportunity to sell excess energy collected at home to the government, for resale to other countries or even areas within the country that are still waiting for their own solar or wind technology, will provide a boost of interest. Once the second stage is completed, the goal of sustainability will be attainable.
Beginning the third stage, it will be important to keep the momentum and fulfill the plan. This stage will begin the clean up process which is already long overdue. This portion of the plan will span at least one year, though may continue for many years. The environment has been enduring atrocious conditions and pollution for many years; the recovery may take some time. During this part, we will begin reversing the damages done to the environment through the many sources of pollution. Restoring natural environment can take many years; however with human help, some results can be witnessed in just one year. Power plants can be reused for other purposes to prevent wasted building materials and roads. Mines must be properly sealed to prevent danger to trespassers and to lessen the amount of acidic and toxic run-off created (Wiley, 2010). Cleaning up these sites will be important if Mother Nature is to reclaim the lands. Topsoil is necessary for vegetation to begin and wildlife to re-inhabit the area. It will be important to monitor previous drilling locations to prevent oil leaks and spills in the future. This monitoring may be necessary for many years after we have ceased reliance on crude oil for energy. There will still be some use for oil to produce products such as gasoline and asphalt until replacement fuels can be sufficiently developed. Completion of stage three will allow the United States to declare sustainability through the use of free energy. This entire plan will also help to decrease our pollution and increase our efficiency as part of the environment.
There are several benefits and challenges to this sustainability plan. One benefit is that it will begin people thinking in more green, energy efficient ways. Perhaps the next step will be to improve our transportation methods to have less reliance on gasoline. There may be a way to use energy collected at your residence to power your vehicle, eliminating the need for gasoline (Lecklider, 2010). Another benefit is the immediate decrease in pollution, both air and terrestrial, that will occur once excess power plants are shut down. A challenge of this sustainability plan is that it will not be effective unless a large majority of Americans utilize this plan. This depends on the first stage to ensure increased effectiveness and participation on a nationwide level. Another foreseeable challenge for this plan is to uphold progress and interest for the duration of the plan. Even though five years is a long time, if progress is constant then through visual changes it will be easier to maintain the attention of the public. More challenges may arise during the different stages of the sustainability plan, however it is important to stay the course and prevent the inevitable exhaustion of non-renewable resources.
This sustainability plan relies most heavily on support from the members of society, but also upon the support and involvement of the government. Without a massive number of people willing to change their energy source, it will be impossible to slow fossil fuel collection and shut down power plants. For people to be able to participate in the program, it is essential that the materials necessary are available at a price that is affordable. This plan will fail if no one can participate due to financial constraints. With support from the citizens and the government, this sustainability plan will be achievable in five years.
The Earth has offered each of us a place to live and grow. It is time to make changes to the ways which we have become accustomed. Changing to solar and wind energy will allow the United States to decrease collection and dependence on fossil fuels for energy. It will also lower pollution and destruction of the environment. A solid sustainability plan needs to be established and followed through, despite any challenges which may arise. We can change our planet together, and it all begins with what we expect to flow through the wires in our homes. Energy is essential for us; it shouldn??™t be detrimental to the environment.
Energy Sustainability in the United States