Future Energy Crisis: We need more consumer friendly Technology
The present global market of energy supply is dominated by fossil fuels. These are the primary sources of energy. Besides, a small portion of the global energy supply is comprised of other than fossil fuels namely alternative energy. Unlike primary sources, the alternative energy sources are both renewable and nonrenewable. For instance, solar energy, hydroelectricity, wind energy and bio fuel fall under the former category, which are continuous and can be regenerated, while nuclear and geothermal are example of nonrenewable alternative energy sources. All forms of alternative energy share the 10 % of the global energy consumption, though only 10 weeks of solar energy is roughly equivalent to the energy stored in all known reserves of coal, oil and natural gases (Botkin & Keller, 2009). In general the alternative energy resources are cleaner than the traditional ones. Consumption of alternative energy emits less carbon dioxide and other hazardous elements in the atmosphere. These days, due to many factors like increasing awareness among the populace, political reasons, higher demand of traditional energy than its usual supply, the use of alternative energy is increasing gradually. Despite their many advantages over the primary sources, many people still doubt to adopt alternative energy because of its high cost, lower efficiency, and environmental concern.
Like other competitive market products, alternative energy also has to compete with traditional one. While we talk about the prices of alternative energy, it fails to compete with cheaper cost of oil and coal. Even though, it is rather more expensive than popular energy resources, the scientists are trying hard to reduce it’s per unit cost. Their high initial capital makes them expensive; even many governments can’t afford or promote it. The per unit cost of solar energy is far more expensive than the same amount of energy obtained from burning fossil fuels (Gabal, 1980). Botkin & Keller in their book, Environmental Science. Earth as a Living Planet, claim in most situations, the bio fuel takes more energy to produce than is obtained. Rarely are they net profitable (2009). The expensive installation costs for both governmental level and individual level prevent the widespread use of alternative energy resources.
In addition to the high cost of alternative energy resources, people also doubt in the efficiency of these new form of energy. When there is low sun shine, then the ground level solar panel does not perform efficiently. That causes an intermittent supply of power at the home. If the home is only relying on solar energy, it usually faces an energy crisis during the peak hours. Furthermore, light from solar lighting system is diffused and low quality, and highly affected by the weather variation. Similarly, wind energy also has both technical and practical constraints to use. “Rotation of windmill blade can interfere with home T.V. reception. The higher the broadcast frequency, the more pronounced the interference, and the larger the blade, the farther away the picture will be disrupted” (Gabal, 1980, p 130). On the other hand, people don’t have much confidence in nuclear energy and geothermal energy because they are nonrenewable in nature. As the nuclear energy requires mineral fuel mined from the earth, while geothermal is considered as nonrenewable for the most part because heat can be extracted from the earth faster than it can be naturally replenished (Botkin & Keller, 2009). As efficiency is the most considerable part of the energy supply, the alternative energy resources fail to prove themselves as efficient as the fossil fuels do. That’s why, in most cases, people try to avoid using them.
Along with cost and efficiency, people are also concerned about the environmental impacts when they pay. Many people believe all forms of alternative energy are environment friendly. “Despite popular belief, no form of energy is 100% clean. They contribute to degrade the environment up to the level of criticism during the manufacturing, transportation, and disposal phase, though they seem to be cleaner during the operation phase”(Berinstein, 2001, p 11). Making solar cells, for instance, requires a lot of energy that may come from fossil fuel. Photovoltaic cell production may consume hazardous materials like Arsenic and Silicon; they are detrimental to both human health and environment. Nuclear kilns are always a threat to humanity, as their accidental explosion has historically caused enormous and irreversible damage to the environment. The byproducts of nuclear processes are also very challenging to dispose of safely. Bio fuels and hydroelectricity are also not free from criticism, as the burning of former directly emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants in the environment, though amount is lesser than that of fossil fuel does. While construction of large dams disturbs the life cycle of aquatic animals and surrounding environment, as they do not allow natural flow in the downstream of the river. More large dams are also always under controversy as the anaerobic oxidation within the large reservoir emits significant amount of methane in the atmosphere. On the surface, alternative energy seems to be pollution free, but in fact, they are not. That’s why people seem to be reluctant to switch to alternative energy as they are concerned about the environment.
Undoubtedly the world’s primary sources of energy are going to be exhausted within this century, so people are compelled to switch to alternative resources. Currently, scientists are very concerned about the fact that current alternative energy sources won’t be efficient enough to solve the future energy crisis. They have already noticed that they will have a very hard time to convince people to adopt alternative energy resources until and unless they will come up with competitive, highly efficient, and more environmentally sound technology.