Alternative Energy Sources, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The Need for Alternative Energy Sources in the United States

Introduction

For the last several decades, the subject of alternative energy sources has been widely discussed by the media, climatologists, geologists, engineers, and executives for companies that currently utilize fossil fuels as a source for creating and generating power. But only within the last ten years or so has the need for alternative energy sources in the United States been taken seriously, due in part to the continuing depletion of traditional energy sources like coal and gas, and the rising costs for consumers that use energy created by the big power companies like Edison International, Consolidated Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric (Kruger, 2006, p. 34).

Therefore, the need for alternative energy sources in the United States, such as solar and wind power, geothermal power, and non-nuclear energy generating systems, has never been more important and every effort must be made to create and utilize these new sources in the very near future before America’s finite fossil fuel sources become depleted.

The History of Alternative Energy Sources

Although the quest for and the use of alternative energy sources dates back thousands of years, it was only after World War II that new energy sources became a priority in the United States. For example, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, “environmental concerns about fossil fuel usage became more pronounced as smog produced by the burning of these fuels” in major U.S. cities came under fire as the cause for a myriad of

illnesses and disorders. Then in 1967, the Arab-Israeli War created an oil embargo “against the United States and the United Kingdom for their support of Israel in the conflict,” thus making it clear that America’s oil supply was in jeopardy.

In the 1970’s, gas rationing came into effect in many states that forced the U.S. to “reorganized its energy policies and establish commissions to regulate nuclear energy and develop alternative energy sources” (History of Alternative and Renewable Energy, 2012). Also, due to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Congress “authorized a committee to examine the potential for the development of electric vehicles” while also focusing on reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels (History of Alternative and Renewable Energy, 2012). By the 1990’s, many were in agreement that the U.S. must do whatever is necessary to create alternative energy sources, and today, this quest “endures and its possible outcome remains clouded by controversy and conjecture” (Kruger, 2006, p. 56).

Three Major Problems

The first major problem associated with the need for alternative energy sources is convincing current energy producing companies like Exxon and Consolidated Edison to switch to alternative sources, especially wind and solar, as replacements for the burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas. This is perhaps the most enduring and complex problem, due to the costs associated with switching to alternative energy sources after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on present energy generating systems (Kruger, 2006, p. 87). It should also be mentioned that switching to alternative sources will take many years and will certainly create unforeseen problems.

The second major problem is related to what needs to be done to have these alternative energy sources “online” or up and running as viable alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels. One avenue discussed by R.L. Bradley, Jr. is the intervention of the U.S. Department of Energy related to creating incentives “for renewable energy generation and conservation,” especially in the electricity generating sector. Some of these incentives include subsidies for renewable energy development, “early entry into open-access programs for renewable energy generation, taxpayer subsidies for energy-efficiency programs, and government payments for renewable energy research” (1997).

The third major problem is related to time, meaning exactly how long it would take to replace traditional energy producing systems like coal-burning power plants. As Bradley points out, it could take up to fifty years before traditional energy producing sources are replaced with renewables like solar and wind power, geothermal power, and biofuels that would replace petroleum-based fuels. One reason for taking such a long time is due to advances in technology regarding synthetic oil and synthetic gas and new ways to burn fossil fuels as non-polluting energy sources (1997).

Conclusion

Obviously, the three main problems described above–switching to alternative energy sources, getting these sources “online,” and the length of time it might require to complete the switch–all depend on funding from the U.S. federal government, private institutions and entities, and the Department of Energy, not to mention the willingness of the American consumer to absorb some of the costs for the short-term, such as installing solar panels on private homes and businesses. In essence, the solution related to the growing need for alternative energy sources in the U.S. is quite simple–immediate action on the part of the U.S. government and the American people in order to avoid a possible (and inevitable) disruption of traditional energy sources because of spiraling costs, growing demand, and the unstable nature of world politics.

References

Bradley, R.L., Jr. (1997). Policy analysis: Renewable energy: Not cheap, not “green.” Cato Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-280.html

History of alternative and renewable energy. (2012). EbscoHost. Retrieved from http://connection.ebscohost.com/science/alternative-energy-exploration/history-alternative-and-renewable-energy

Kruger, P. (2006).  Alternative energy resources: The quest for sustainable energy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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