Electricity, gas for cars, and power for our infrastructure allows for never before experienced luxury, technology, and improvements on life. All of this however comes at a greater cost. To create electricity we burn through a great deal of fossil fuels. Powering cars and power plants alike, our reliance on oil is critical to powering our economy.
Over the past few decades, there has been an increased push towards alternative forms of energy. These alternative forms of energy do not rely on fossil fuel. Instead, they make use of technology, nature, and a number of different things to bring about a more sustainable form of energy. Lets quickly define what alternative energy means. In addition, lets take a moment to review some of the pros and cons of alternative energy.
So What Is Alternative Energy?
Simply put, alternative energy is any energy source out there that does not use fossil fuels. In addition, alternative energy is sometimes defined as energy producing methods that do not let CO2 into the atmosphere.
The Pros of Alternative Energy Sources
Alternative energy make a strong point for why it should be expanded both in the United States and abroad. Bringing cleaner energy, more jobs, and a renewable structure to a system that is currently not sustainable, alternative energy covers a range of techniques for producing power.
1. Reduces Drilling and Destruction of Nature
There are a number of fossil fuel and coal extraction techniques that are very harmful to nature. Coal removal for example has led to a practice called ‘mountaintop removal’ where entire mountains are leveled in the United States. Turning pristine wilderness into vast rubble fields, these techniques endanger water sources and native plant and animal species. Controversial techniques like fracking have caused individuals across the northeast to poison their land and render their drinking water toxic. With a direct link between carcinogens and the oil extraction process, non-alternative energy removal is slowly polluting the Earth even further.
2. Can Help Create Green Jobs
With the current economic crisis at a point of recovery, a focus on alternative energy highlights an important opportunities for American manufacturing. Given that the United States has the necessary technology and skill set to produce wide scale green energy, the US could put hundreds of thousands of people to work. In this way, alternative energy could help lead the economic recovery in the US, providing stable middle class jobs without the need for anything beyond an associates or similar technical training.
3. Most Alternative Energy Is Renewable and Sustainable
The vast majority of alternative energy is renewable and sustainable. Wind and solar power are two popular examples. Since there will always be wind blowing and sun shining, both of these power generating techniques can create energy forever. In addition, neither pollutes the world around them or adds dangerous toxins into the atmosphere. If fully implemented, thousands of additional jobs could be created in maintenance and repair of these sustainable energy units, helping to take away America’s reliance on foreign oil.
4. Does Not Add Toxic Emissions To The Atmosphere
As stated in the last point, the vast majority of renewable and sustainable energy does not add toxic emissions to the atmosphere. Unlike wind, solar, and hydroelectric, fossil fuels add carcinogens, toxins and other things into the air when burned. While we do our best to remove these harmful materials prior to them going into the atmosphere, there is only so much that can be done to stop these pollutants from getting out. In addition, we should also take a moment to consider the damage caused to both the atmosphere and environment when there is an oil spill or pipeline break. During these moments, entire habitats can be destroyed, requiring millions of dollars of cleanup.
5. Comes In A Variety of Forms
Alternative energy is an umbrella term that covers an amazingly diverse range of technologies. For example, nuclear energy and bio-diesel are both considered alternative forms of energy due to neither being fossil fuel related. Now, while nuclear energy creates potentially dangerous radiation and fallout, it is still generally considered safer then anything releasing carbon emissions. Alternative energy also covers well-known energy production techniques, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric. While each of these have their own pros and cons associated with their use, they are all considered better then fossil fuel when considering the damage they do to the environment.
6. Alternative Energy Is Constantly Improving
The technology behind alternative energy is constantly becoming better, less costly, and more efficient. While one of the leading cons to alternative energy is that it cannot scale as easily as something like oil, alternative energy is constantly getting better. New techniques for harnessing waves as well as currents are being considered to generate even more electricity through new and exciting means.
The Cons of Alternative Energy Sources
While alternative energy provides a lot of hope for the future, there are a number of cons to its use and implementation on a wide scale.
1. The Projected Amount of Available Oil Is Rising
Over the past few decades, there have been a steady stream of news reports saying that we are going to run out of oil in the next 20 years. These predictions have consistently been scaled back, as new technologies make oil extraction simpler then ever. While oil is not permanently sustainable, it will be viable for years to come.
2. Alternative Energy Still Makes Up Only A Fraction of Our Energy Production
Alternative energy makes up only a fraction of most country’s energy production. While some Scandinavian countries produce the majority of their energy through alternative energy sources, they are usually supporting a small population. While the idea of alternative energy is good, it may be more of a challenge then it is worth attempting to scale it up.
3. Alternative Energy Will Require Greater Shifts In Infrastructure and Law
If alternative energy becomes the primary source of power for the United States, then there will need to be monumental infrastructure and law changes to help facilitate this growth. Bringing about such change on a national level will be a challenge to say the least.
4. Some Forms of Alternative Energy Are Not Popular
There has been an increase in the pushback associated with alternative energy use. For example, many people living at or near wind turbines report headaches and annoyance at the sound and shadows created by the spinning blades. In addition, many people along coasts find offshore wind turbines to be unsightly and bad for the view.
Where Does That Leave Us?
Whether you are for or against alternative energy, its use in the United States is growing. While states like California experiment with geothermal energy, large solar plants, and hydroelectric dams, other states are starting to catch on. In addition, there are a number of subsidies for individual homeowners to have alternative energy sources on their house, like solar panels. With a push towards greater energy independence from abroad, it will be interesting to see how the United States weighs these pros and cons and what decisions our leaders will make going into the future.