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Heston Allred

Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper

Alternative Energy: Facts and Proposals


Alternative energy is a top issues in global politics in recent years. It is one that has
stimulated a lot of debate here in the U.S. as well. According to Christopher Flavin the issue or,
The question that comes up among policy makers, again and again is: If not coal, and if not
nuclear, then what?(p.124) Why is this a question that needs to be addressed? Rachel La Courte,
in her article entitled Alternative Energy Sources Championed helps explain. According to her,
Experts tell us that the global oil shortage will only worsen, making the three-dollars-per-gallon
gasoline of summer 2005 seem affordable." This could be a problem for a number of obvious as
well as unexpected reasons.
Based on one study found in Alternative Energy Sources, by Christopher Flavin,
roughly 90 percent of all the energy in the United States in 1984 came from three sources. These
were coal, oil, and natural gases (p.123). Ian Ruteledge records, in reference to our oil
consumption, The outlook saw consumption rising from 19.4 million barrels per day in 1999 to
around 26 million b/d in 2020(p.363). Obviously, we are currently very dependent on fossil
fuels. What could our over dependence entail exactly though? For one, our over dependence on
oil coupled with its expected price rise will make many energy sources, such as gasoline for one,
increasingly expensive in the future. This means less people will have acces s to them most
likely. Coal also has many current as well as expected problems. Mellissa Jenko in her article
Coal Energy writes about many of them. She records Bencyrus Ellorin [a] spokesman of
Pinoy Kontra Coal, the largest Philippine coalition banded together to reject coal-based
energy, as saying that, Communities across the country... continue to rise against proposed

Heston Allred
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper
coal-fired power plants. Coal energy is dirty and poses a threat to our health, environment,

livelihood and our children's future. Stated simply, problems with our current sources of energy,
which include, the rising price of energy, its harmful, negative effects on human life and the
environment, and its finite nature provide powerful incentives for us to find alternative sources.
The finite issue alone seems to provide enough incentive for many to warrant a switch. Many
estimate we will soon not have enough coal and oil to meet our energy needs. As our dependence
on fossil fuels is being questioned and re-evaluated the definition of good energy is changing
to include factors such as sustainability and environmental friendliness. Thankfully, it seems
much of the world has already realized the need to update and upgrade our energy. Obviously,
increased time, resources, and funding are necessities in finding viable alternatives to the energy
crisis at hand.
The effects current mass energy sources have are widespread and far-reaching. This
makes the issues audience a wide and eclectic one. In my opinion, because much if not the
majority of the world relies to some degree on fossil fuels this particular issue could potentially
affect a large portion of the worlds population. Obviously, as previously stated, alternative or
clean energy is a prominent issue in U.S. as well as global politics. This means any groups or
people in the political arena will be affected by any changes. This means the business and
science communities are likewise subject to change as more consideration is being given to
allocating more attention and funding towards researching clean energy Furthermore, this trend
is likely to increase until suitable solutions are found. Much of the worlds general population
especially those living in large cities, will be affected. Future generations are also affected due to
the shifts in politics and science. These could potentially shift educational agendas and programs

Heston Allred
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper
as research leads to new discoveries causing content in schools and universities to change or

broaden. I think this could particularly change the field of engineering being that engineering
relies heavily on fossil fuels as well as many other fields and professions.
Fortunately there are many alternative energy sources already identified that can be used
as a starting point in determining how to lessen and possibly cut off our dependence on fossil
fuel. In order to give an accurate idea of how many alternatives there really are and their wideranging nature I will list a number of the more potentially viable ones. In his article, Flavin
explains solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower energy. He also includes Ocean Thermal
Energy Conversion, tidal energy as well as wave energy. Burner reaction, Breeder reaction, and
fusion reaction nuclear energy are also explained (p.125-144). These are all, to varying degrees,
useable alternatives that can help to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.
As just mentioned there is Burner and Breeder reaction nuclear fission. Current nuclear
power plants use the Burner reaction process to create or manufacture energy. This process,
however, is dependant on uranium, which Flavin estimates, will run short about as quickly as oil
will if used at the current rate.This rules it out as a long term solution (p.139). Its effects on the
environment are roughly equal to those caused by fossil fuels as well, although they can be
contained better. The Breeder reaction process is an upgrade or refinement of the Burner process.
It is designed to extend the longevity of nuclear fission and is thought to be a long-term
solution or in other words to last for several hundreds of years. Breeder fission, however,
produces environmental hazards, waste disposal and control is difficult because of the large
quantity produced, and terrorists could create nuclear weapons from its byproducts relatively
easily. Because of the numerous and major drawbacks of Burner and Breeder reaction, fusion

Heston Allred
4
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper
energy seems to be the most promising of the available nuclear options. Flavin states, Nuclear
fusion reactions have excellent potential as the planet's energy source. Much research has been
performed leading to the harnessing of fusion reactions for the production of power. There are
today, four or five major, and a dozen secondary, research centers worldwide working on fusion
technology. Few researchers doubt that energy can eventually be produced by the use of fusion
reactions(p.141). The process converts lighter atoms to heavier ones. Because of this no
radioactivity is produced and it is expected longevity is about the same as Breeder fission. The
drawbacks of nuclear fusion are relatively minimal and the positives seem to fit the worlds
needs fairly well.
Solar energy has attracted attention lately due to the enormous amount available and its
virtually limitless nature. According to Flavin, Calculations indicate that if we can harvest solar
energy at 20 percent efficiency then three percent of the area of the USA could provide all the
energy we need. Expressing this area in other ways provides a feel for the immense scale of the
collectors needed if we are to supply all our energy needs from sunlight. The contiguous 48
states have a total area of 7,710,516 km squared. Three percent of this is 230,505 km squared, or
nearly the area of the state of Wyoming, at 252,539 km squared. Of course, the sun does not
shine all the time in Wyoming. The 230,000-squared km must be located where the sun shines a
good portion of the time. This means the collection sites must be located in New Mexico,
Arizona and southern California(p.125). The land necessary to accommodate a proposal of this
magnitude and type obviously presents a number of problems. One major obstacle is the fact that
according to Flavin, if a large part of the solar energy falling on Arizona is converted to electric
energy and moved out of state, Arizona will become cooler. Significant cooling of Arizona will

Heston Allred
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper
result in dramatic changes in the weather there and in all the contiguous states. This sudden

change in weather and the unknown side effects that might accompany it is a major drawback
needing to be addressed before solar energy can be seen as an effective alternative. Furthermore
this is not its only problem. Flavin goes on to explain, Solarthermaltechnologyhasmany
problems:costoffacilitiesunreliabilityofsunlight,andpotentialhighcontinuousmaintenance
costforcleaning(p.129).
SolarenergyisjustoneexampleIgavetodemonstratesomeofthepositivesand
negativesofrenewableenergy.Renewableenergysourcesmadeupthebulkofthelistof
alternativesourcespreviouslymentioned.Generallyspeaking,renewableenergysourcesare
thosetiedcloselywithorgenerateddirectlybynature.Forthisreasontheyusuallyhavevery
littlewaste,arefriendlytotheenvironment,andusuallyprovideanunlimitedenergysource.For
example,windenergy,whichlargelyreliesonwindmillstocatchwindandthengeneratesthat
intoenergy,isarenewableenergysource.Geothermalenergy,whichhastodowithextracting
heatfromrocksandwaterdeepunderthecrustoftheearthisanotherexampleaswellastidal
energy,whichobviouslyispoweredbythechangingtidesoftheocean.Sincerenewableenergy
sourcesrelyonnaturetheyareharvestedratherthanfoundormanufactured.Becauseofthis
reliancetheycansometimesbeerraticleadingtovaryingdegreesofreliability.Theyalsoseem
tocurrentlyberelativelyinefficientandincapableofcreatingthemassamountsofenergy
neededwhencomparedtononrenewablesources.However,basedonmyreadingandthefact
thatmanyofthepositivesofrenewableenergysourcesarehardtofindelsewhere,future
technologicaladvancementscouldmakethesesourcesanidealalternativeoneday.

Heston Allred
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper
Of renewable energy Flavin writes, Although potentially useful for the generation of

modest amounts of energy under special circumstances, the renewable energy sources are
inadequate as the basis of an energy system that can be used to replace fossil fuels.(p.144).
Because of this I would propose that increased funding and research be allocated to developing
these sources in order to find out whether improved technology could some day allow them to
play a more substantial role in supplying the bulk of energy on a national or global level.
Because of this, I propose governments create incentives for their citizens to use these renewable
energy sources on a smaller scale. I also think increased funding and research should be allotted
to them based on the potential previous research and funding indicate they have to meet our
energy needs. The United States government is already following a course similar to this. This is
shown by a number of different proposed and passed bills and legislation here in the U.S. dealing
with alternative energy sources in a number of different applications. Because fusion energy
seems to be the most promising of the long-term, high output sources I think steps should be
taken as soon as possible to replace our current nuclear as well as fossil fuel energy sources with
fusion sources. In order to make this happen major increases in research and funding should
immediately go toward this end. One of the major obstacles is obviously funding, which, given
todays rapidly changing economy and especially the national debt here in the U.S. means there
is no simple answer. However, I believe, as increased priority and attention is given to this issue
by all branches of the government, realistic solutions can be found and implemented. Effective
legislation can be achieved through the legislative and executive branches making this a top
priority. The judicial branch can address potential ethical and law problems.

Heston Allred
Eng 102
Project 4
Stamper

Works Cited
Flavin, Christopher. Alternative Energy Sources. Applied Energy Vol. 47. Science Direct
Journals. Web. 23 Nov. 2010.
La Corte, Rachel. Alternative Energy Sources Championed. Lexis Nexis. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.
Rutledge, Ian. Addicted to Oil: America's Relentless Drive for Energy Security. London: I.B.
Tauris. 2005. ASU Libraries E-brary. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.
Jenko, Melissa. Coal Energy. Lexis Nexis. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.