The Growing Need for Sustainable Energy The Growing Need for Sustainable Energy
With the nation’s dependency on foreign fossil fuels having reached a critical point, now more than ever there is an urgent need for the development of a sustainable energy infrastructure. The costs associated with foreign oil will only rise, whether it is the price of one barrel or the costs of war to keep energy supplies abundant. In addition, there is the issue of peak oil – the notion that the world has passed the halfway point of oil and natural gas resources. Peak oil does not say that there is no fossil fuel left- rather, it is the idea that the fossil fuels that remain are too expensive to acquire and refine. If 1 ½ inputs of energy are needed to get one in return, it is a losing endeavor for any company capable of locating, drilling for and refining the fuel. Sustainable energy, on the other hand, involves the use of other sources of power generation, from solar to wind to geothermal. An industrial economy requires a tremendous amount of power to run. However, it cannot rely indefinitely on foreign oil, or any fossil fuel for that matter which is why the need for sustainable energy has never been greater.
A Short History of Sustainable Energy
The idea of alternative forms of energy has been around for a long time. Throughout the history of the modern industrial civilization, newer forms of energy production have emerged. First coal replaced wood, then oil began to replace coal. Oil and other fossil fuels proved to be the most cost effective way to power society, although burning it is not the most efficient. Scientists and inventors have long tinkered with alternative power sources, from solar power to wind power to fuel cells to other forms of power generation. The famed inventor of alternating current, Nikola Tesla, even claimed to have figured out how to produce abundant and free energy for the entire world.
It has only been in the last few decades that serious discussion has taken place about the need for sustainable energy. Foreign wars and oil prices will continue to spiral out of control until the modern industrial nations can find an adequate way to meet their needs without using fossil fuels.
Sustainable Energy Crisis
Although numerous forms of sustainable energy have been proposed, from tidal and wave power to solar, wind, geothermal, ethanol and hydrogen power, nobody seems to have the answer in regards to the viability of any of them on a massive scale. There is a tremendous amount of political and institutional will in opposition to the development of truly sustainable energy sources, but that aside, there is still the problem of efficiency. The entire state of Arizona would need to be covered with solar panels to create the kind of power necessary to run large scale cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas and others. The disadvantages of alternative energy seem to be the focus, though. Rather than come together behind the need for real change in energy production habits, constant squabbling among experts seems to be the order of the day.
A very real concern for alternative energy production – whatever the type – is that it requires large scale inputs of fossil fuels to produce, transport and maintain its components. In the long run, this will not work as dependency on fossil fuels is the heart of the problem. Perhaps what is required is each person taking individual responsibility to change their own habits. Rather than rely upon institutional change, individuals can focus on their own part and effect change one energy consumer at a time.