Environmental Issues

Wind turbines, Colorado. Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey, AP

Update: New Findings for Greener America – Renewable Energy

Byron Washom, shown here, was hired to lead renewable energy and clean drinking water efforts at Lanai Resorts. Source: Pacific Business News

Byron Washom, shown here, was hired to lead renewable energy and clean drinking water efforts at Lanai Resorts. Source: Pacific Business News.

In the current day and age Americans are finding new ways to make the world a better place—as far as renewable energy and recyclables are concerned—to provide cleaner ways to fuel the country and to stop adding to the mass of trash collecting among the earth.lanai_map

Showing efforts to push for new ocean water desalination and renewable energy projects, Billionaire mogul Larry Ellison’s Lanai Resorts LLC has hired Byron Washom, director of Strategic Energy Initiatives at the University of California San Diego, to supervise.

Lanai Resorts. Source: GoHawaii.com

Lanai Resorts. Source: GoHawaii.com

According to Lanai Resorts and UC San Diego Washom will be leading “a new initiative to transform the Hawaiian island of Lanai into a model for sustainable energy.” Ocean water will be desalinated into fresh drinking water to supply the island.

John Hickenlooper Colorado Governor. Source: RT.com

John Hickenlooper Colorado Governor. Source: RT.com

Colorado has displayed strong efforts supporting the use of clean energy. By 2020, the state aims to have double the sources of power obtained from recyclable and renewable energy, according to a signed legislation by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Wind turbines, Colorado. Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey, AP

Wind turbines, Colorado. Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey, AP

 

 

U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions Growth. Source: EIA

U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions Growth. Source: EIA

From the Short-term energy Outlook released by the EIA (U. S. Energy Information Administration), the infographic shows a prediction that carbon dioxide discharges from fossil fuels to drop to 0.6 percent in 2014, after estimating increase at 2.6 percent for 2013.

Aleshia Highland a graduate student at Full Sail University said, “renewable energy is essential for America to evolve and grow economically and to be self-sustaining. Even by recycling bottles and cans around your house you are doing your part.”

 

 

 

 

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy. Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Alternative Energy Sources in America: Will they Help or Hurt us?

Long ago the fiery debate has stirred up many questions, concerns and views on one of the biggest topic at hand: sources of alternative energy.

Will alternative energy be a beneficial asset in reducing greenhouse gases and CO2? Or will alternative energy spend too much money and time in investments? There are an unlimited number of sides to this story, as the country’s stance on this argument may never seem to come to a conclusion.

ProCon.org’s Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy article poses various perspectives on the many different sides of this controversial issue. The full article of the Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy can be found on their website. While there is a vast list of alternative energy sources, this article will discuss three interesting points: biofuels, solar, wind power.

The most common method of biofuel is converting corn into ethanol. Photo Credit: Danish Center for Biofuels.

The most common method of biofuel is converting corn into ethanol. Photo Credit: Danish Center for Biofuels.

1. Biofuels

This method of alternative energy is the process taking biomass, or plants, and converting it into fuel. “Simply put, biofuels are fuels made from plant materials. Right now, the main biofuel on the market is ethanol, made from corn kernels,” according to The Natural Resources Defense Council.

Pros:

The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy made this statement:

“On a full fuel-cycle basis, corn ethanol has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52% over petroleum-based fuels. Even better, ethanol made from cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass, or agricultural residues such as corn stover, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 86%, compared to gasoline. Biofuels have the added benefit of providing a ‘carbon sink.’ As crops grow to produce the feedstocks for making the biofuel, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Cons:

David Pimentel, PhD, professor of Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University said:

“The use of corn for ethanol has led to major increases in the price of U.S. beef, chicken, pork, eggs, breads, cereals, and milk — a boon to agribusiness and bane to consumers…

As global population soars to 8 or 9 billion toward mid-century, and as we burn more grain as fuel, shortages and production costs could cause grain prices to skyrocket, taking food from the mouths of the world’s poorest people.”

2. Solar Power

Capturing solar power is most commonly accomplished with photovoltaic solar panel systems, converting sunlight into energy. The National Resources Defense Council explains the different ways of producing solar energy:

Solar power captures sunlight, transforming it directly into energy.  Photo Credit: langalex

Solar power captures sunlight, transforming it directly into energy. Photo Credit: langalex.

“The sun’s energy can be actively captured to generate electricity or passively harnessed to heat water or buildings.

  • Solar, or photovoltaic cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. They’re usually made primarily of silicon, the same material used in computer semiconductor chips.
  • Concentration systems use mirrors to focus the sun’s energy. The concentrated sunlight heats water or a heat-transferring fluid to generate steam.
  • Collectors use heat-absorbing material to harness sunlight for heating water or buildings.
  • Windows, sunrooms and skylights allow the sun to heat and light buildings.”

Pros:

Greenpeace International and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association supports solar energy by saying:

“The cost of manufacturing both solar cells and modules and other components has been falling steadily. As a result, the price of PV [photo-voltaic] systems has fallen by an average of 5% per annum over the last 20 years. It is expected that this rate of price decrease can be maintained in the future…”

 Cons:

Jay Leher, PhD, Science Director for the Heartland Institute, said this:

“The sun’s energy is too widely dispersed and the land area required to collect it too vast for solar to become a large-scale power source….

In reality, solar and wind power remain on today’s radar screen only as a result of wasteful tax breaks to appease the green community…

The solar problem is that no matter how you design the system it will always be inefficient and capture only a small, uneconomical amount of solar energy…”

 3. Wind Power

Giant windmill turbines moving by the force of natural wind, is the process of generating wind energy. The National Resources Defense Council explaining the process of wind power stated the “wind’s kinetic energy can be harnessed by a wind turbine, a device that looks like an extremely tall, skinny fan. When wind moves the blades of the fan, they spin a central hub. The spinning hub moves a series of gears connected to a generator, which converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy for distribution.”

 

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy. Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy.
Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Pros:

The National Audubon Society said this:

“Every megawatt-hour produced by wind energy avoids an average of 1,220 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If the United States obtains 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2020, it will reduce global warming emissions equivalent to taking 71 million cars off the road or planting 104 million acres of trees. Expanding wind power instead of fossil fuels also avoids the wildlife and human health impacts of oil and gas drilling, coal mining and fossil fuel burning.”

Cons: 

Robert L. Bradley Jr., PhD, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, gave his position on wind energy:

“Wind power is certainly a candidate for the perfect imperfect energy. It is uneconomic to produce and more uneconomic to transmit. It is unreliable moment-to-moment (the intermittency problem). It is at its worst when it needs to be at its best (those hot summer days). Its aesthetics are bad. It attracts the worst political capitalists (the late Ken Lay, the current T. Boone Pickens). W. S. Jevons was right in 1865 when he concluded that wind power was unsuitable for the industrial age.”

 

With so much information to process, remember these are just three of the many options of renewable energy sources. Please visit ProCon.org’s Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy article for more information about renewable energy.

Here are two supplemental videos on different views of alternative energy. Each video poses different perspectives: fossil fuels vs. alternative energy:

 

 “U.S. town focuses on alternative energy” – In Eastport Maine, a startup company discusses and demonstrates the last test phase of North America’s first commercial tidal energy project.

 

“Romney outlines plan for U.S. energy independence” – Former presidential republican candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan to have U.S. energy independence by 2020, by way of inland and offshore drilling. Romney said that he did not support alternative energy sources because they were “unfair to drilling companies,” according to MSNBC’s The Ed Show.

 

What is your view on alternative energy?