Human activities are causing the world to warm and the global average temperature is predicted to increase by 1.8-4.0C (3.2-7.2F) by the end of the century. (Griffin, 2009) These numbers might not seem that large but when you factor in the rate at which they are increasing, it almost becomes obvious that human contributed greenhouse gases are a huge contributing factor. Since the climate will continue to change for natural and humans activity reasons, it critical to understand the adaptations humans need to do as soon as possible.
For certain, if oil production and oil consumption increase over the next decade at the rate it increased throughout the 1990’s, basically doubled, the world will have serious problem breaking the temperature highs year after year because of raised levels of greenhouse gases from our society’s transportation emissions. With the world oil demand increasing every year, production and consumption are expected to increase as well over the next ten years. (2009)
New and green alternatives will be taking center stage as it is predicted that the world’s oil production and consumption will increase by 20% over the next ten years and then another 20% by 2030. (2009) This will not only decrease the amount of gas-powered transportation vehicles our world uses but it will decrease the leverage that foreign oil companies have over other countries.
Presently, the entire global energy infrastructure is heavily depended on electricity and fossil fuels. This dependence creates an astounding environmental impact. Specifically, it creates a future full of greenhouse gases. The environmental impact the world faces because of the consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases include ice glaciers meltdown, extreme floods and droughts, larger hurricanes, species extinction, new and resurgent diseases, and global warming. (Ness, 2006)
Carbon dioxide is a very serious antecedent of fossil fuel use and it has a tremendous impact on climate change. (Griffin, 2009) This is because this chemical is not just an ordinary pollutant. It remains suspended in the atmosphere for a very long period of time. Its emission goes beyond country borders. (2009) Global climate change threatens the political, economic, scientific, and ethical conditions in our planet. This seems to be “apocalyptic” but the tremendous emission of carbon dioxide and the burgeoning climate change problems are very alarming. (Ness, 209, p. 104) Human beings marches blindly forward, using more automobiles, airplanes and air conditioning appliances, among other energy exhausting activities and patterns. They are unconscious of the various serious consequences these will have in our future.
There is hope in alternative and/or renewable energy resources as they significantly reduce the harmful effects and costs associated with the general energy we use. These resources decrease the huge demand for fossil fuels and create a solution to deal with the undesirable effects of pollution. Also, renewable energy is the wave of the future to replace the non-renewable energy which we largely consume on a daily basis.
With the development and changes in technologies, the costs, energy consumption, volatility, benefits, and reduction in different aspects for alternative and/or renewable energy resources will play a major role in reshaping the global energy consumption. Alternative solutions for energy sources include harnessing energy through solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. This is powered by the technological advances which we have further developed in the quest for alternative energy sources.
This research paper presents various technological alternatives to reshape the global energy consumption such as building efficiencies for next generation commercial airlines, harnessing the U.S. energy infrastructures to reduce oil dependency and the full support for electric vehicles and other green alternatives. Reshaping the global energy consumption is critical for creating a sustainable future that the human race can continue to thrive in.
II. Alternative Sources of Energy
a. Alternatives to Oil
The United States consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil every day, oil that powers cars, trucks, factories, and homes. The urgent need to balance oil consumption necessitates the rapid transition to energy alternatives. (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2005) Indeed, oil dependence has become the Achilles heel of America’s economy and national security. As such, the US has joined the chorus of countries that want to reduce or eliminate dependence on oil by encouraging clean-coal technology, hydrogen, and biofuels. (Longmuir and Alhajji, 2007) In this venture, three principal energy alternatives to oil are presented. These are natural gas, nuclear power and solar energy. (Ness, 2006)
a.1.) Natural Gas
Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels and produces far lower carbon dioxide emissions (117 pounds per million Btu) than petroleum (160 pounds per million Btu). The US supplies of natural gas also come from secure domestic and Canadian sources. (Griffin, 2009) Because of its abundance, it is tapped for extended use, especially in electricity generation. The physical properties of natural gas relative to other fossil fuels also attract market prospects for its development. It can be developed at relatively low cost.
There are many opportunities for the efficient use of this energy. Electricity is the number one sector for the natural gas. Others include the use of compressed natural gas in the development of the US vehicle market. Liquefied natural gas will also be attractive in the near future. The conversion of natural gas to methanol also enjoys a wide industrial application and a well-established cost basis. It is now an option for providing a cost-competitive, room temperature liquid transportation fuel and reducing oil dependence. Natural gas will generally assume an increasing share of the US energy mix over the next decades. (2009)
a.2.) Nuclear Power
With the emergence of energy crises and other issues, the use of nuclear power has again been viable. Nuclear fuel, which accounts for 8% of US supplies as compared with coal fired power plants emits no carbon dioxide or any other air pollutants. (2009) The US is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity. It has 104 nuclear reactors that produce 799 billion kWh in 2009. This is over 20% of total electrical output. (World Nuclear Association, 2010)
The use of these alternative energy resources has a great impact in the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other ozone depleting toxins. For instance, the use of biodiesel as an alternative to fuel provides significantly reduced emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons, and sulfates compared to petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel also reduces emissions of carcinogenic compounds by as much as 85% compared with petro diesel. (Griffin, 2009)
III. Citing the Technological Utilization of New Energy Source through Global Transport
The commercial airline industry and the automobile industry present the important sectors which utilize the use of technology and alternative energy sources for energy and costs reduction. As we all know, these sectors depend heavily on oil. They work towards mitigating the rising cost and volatility of fuel by the improvements and advancements in transport technology. They also utilize technological advancements in all other aspects of their daily use.
a. Commercial Airlines
Aside from fuels, the central focus has been on the aircraft itself. Different technologies are being applied to reduce drag, save weight, and improve aircraft performance. (2010) This is shown by the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 and 787, which are all next generation aircraft capable of longer flights with higher payload, less weight and less fuel. (2010)
Aircraft manufacturers have also turned metal alloys that provide significant strength while reducing the weight and, in some cases, size of the part. Titanium has been used as a critical alloy in many of the supporting structures of new aircrafts. One of the most important features of an aircraft is its landing gear. It proves to be one of the heaviest and highest maintenance structures of the aircraft. (Boyer, 2010)
In the past, the fuselage, wings and the body structure of the aircraft was made of aluminum, but the landing gear and supporting frame was made of heavy steel. The high strength and low density of titanium (-40% lower than that of steel) provide many opportunities for weight savings. To illustrate, titanium has been extensively used on the landing gear of the Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft and the Airbus A380. It provides significant weight savings. In Boeing 777, 580 kg of weight was saved by substituting the steel structure for titanium in the landing gear. (2010)
Titanium also has a greater size to strength ratio than aluminum. (Boyer, 2010) This means that the supporting structure of an aircraft can be reduced by increasing the aerodynamics. In the Boeing 737, 747 and 757, the envelopes of the wings housing a critical supporting structure were too small to use less expensive aluminum, so titanium was used over heavier and less expensive steel. For the next generation aircrafts, wings can have a larger surface area without increasing the height of the cavity of the wings. This provides for more lift at a similar weight. Unfortunately, titanium is still very expensive and thus, in some airlines, it is still cost prohibitive. However, titanium is also corrosion resistant and does not pit. (2010)
Moving beyond the materials and the components of an aircraft, the most critical part is the engine. This is where the airline industry is making the most headway in efficient flight. CFM International, in partnership with General Electric and Snecma, has built the next generation engine designed to power narrow body aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Fuel savings is the driving force behind this engine. Its LEAP56 technology development program has responded to the fuel prices hike since 2005. (CFM International, 2008) Its tests and analyses showed a significant savings in fuel over current engine models.
Lastly, air traffic management is also being explored as an aspect for aircraft fuel consumption reduction. Underway are efforts involving the federal government and the U.S. aerospace industry to implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). This system is designed around satellite navigation in areas out of reach of existing land radar. (2008) At present, aircraft making trans-ocean flights are given flight paths that provide for the highest level of safety once out of sight of radar. These paths keep aircraft hundreds of miles apart from each other to ensure safety, but it also take these aircraft on lengthy indirect routes. The idea is to provide more direct trans-ocean routes which eliminate hundreds of miles of unnecessary flying. While reducing the amount of fuel used by an aircraft is a step in the right direction, eliminating the dependence on this substance is paramount.
b. Hybrid Cars
The world we live in continues to increase operations of gas-powered vehicles at a large rate because our society is dependent on oil. This trend must stop because the future does not hold promise as fuel emissions lead to an increase in greenhouses gases causing a higher degree of global warming. A projection over the next five years has shown concrete evidence that the world’s greenhouse gases from human created emissions will increase the Earth’s overall temperature by .3 degrees C. (Ness, 2006)
Aside from significantly reducing their use of gasoline, cars have resorted to green alternatives. Several of these alternatives include the use of ethanol alcohol, hydrogen, bio-diesel, and of course electric vehicles. (Ness 2006) While the alternatives mentioned above also have side effects to the change, there is no greater damage to the burning of fossil fuels that lead to greenhouse gases and eventually to global warming.
Hybrid electric vehicles have also been developed to create a better fuel efficient car with a higher degree of performance and reduce emissions. The main factor for hybrid vehicles is that they increase their mileage per gallon (mpg) and lower the consumption of some mechanical fluids while still being able to decrease the emissions that are flowing into the environment on a daily basis. It combines a conservative internal combustion engine system with an electric impulsion system. (Boyer, 2010) This green alternative aims to lessen the impact of fossil fuels on the ecosystem. Enabled by high-efficiency electric motors and controllers and powered by alternative energy sources provide the means for a clean, efficient, and environmentally friendly urban transportation system. Electric vehicles have no emission, having the potential to curb the pollution problem in an efficient way. (2010)
These types of vehicles are considered the next generation of vehicles because of their clean operations and they can be seen as an excellent portable energy source. These types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles include full hybrid, mild hybrid, power assist hybrids, and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).
Full Hybrids are vehicles that can run on just batteries or just engine or a combination of both. A mild hybrid is a vehicle that cannot be driven on an electric motor alone because the electric motor does not have enough power to propel the vehicle alone. It is also supported by a gasoline engine. A power assist hybrid uses an internal combustion engine for the primary power but also relies on a torgue-boosting electric motor. There is also the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) which is a hybrid electric vehicle with rechargeable batteries that needs to be recharged by being plugged into an external electric power source. (CFM International, 2008)
New ways of transportation are also explored as a mean of finding alternatives to vehicles. This includes independent programs, electric monorails connecting major cities, and/or more over road walk ways to encourage more public walking throughout cities and towns. (Ness, 2006) The independent programs could be created to promote alternatives to driving gas-powered vehicles that heavily pollute our environment.
For example, people could elect to ride more bikes or scooters if more bike lanes are included on the less busy public roadways and car pool lanes could be increased to start programs with better marketing of tax incentives and free tolls when participating. Other option involves installing an electric monorail system verses using coal burning trains to transport passengers and products between close by cities. For instance, an electric monorail would be perfect for cities like Baltimore and Washington or Los Angelos and San Francisco. This would lessen a lot of fossil fuel burning between these cities and decrease on congestion. (2006)
The third option is to install more over roads walkways that could promote more walking and less driving or cab rides within major cities throughout the world. This could allow people to make better decisions on their transportation needs because they will have more options and more walking promotes a healthier lifestyle. (2006) Ultimately though, the alternative energy resources are the key factors in reshaping our global transportation infrastructure because these are the best solutions to get our society off on the dependency of oil.
IV. Special Concerns in New and Emerging Sources of Energy
Existing technologies for alternative energy resources are promising. For one, harnessing alternatives to oil provides economic benefits such as lesser cost and the local control. (Griffin, 2009) For instance, a highly abundant solar energy and natural gas will be less expensive to generate and it can be created from locally available resources. Further, its production and use can provide a host of economic benefits for local communities. It also reduces the societal cost of increased health care expenditures, environmental degradation, and lost employment due to the ill effects of oil sourcing.
However, development of alternative energy also entails energy investment. Drilling for oil or building a wind power plant requires energy. The fossil fuel resources that are left are often increasingly difficult to extract and convert. They may thus require increasingly higher energy investments. Renewable energy industries have already expanded especially in 2008, with the expanding renewable energy companies that aim to explore the alternative energy markets due to its great returns. According to Johnson (2009, p. 1), an estimated $120 billion was invested in renewable energy globally in 2008.
In conclusion, alternatives to energy through different resources are critical in restructuring our global energy utilization. It is crucial to the impending direct effects of climate changes and/or global warming. New alternatives to energy resources include the process and utilization of renewable energy that create a cleaner global transportation infrastructure. By building efficiencies in alternative energy sources, the world’s position for moving greatly towards renewable energy and away from non renewable energy is greatly enhanced.
Three main options that can be seen as a positive direction for removing the U.S. and the rest of the world away from oil dependency is natural gas, nuclear power, and solar power. These alternatives will not only decrease the oil dependency aspect but it will reduce the CO2 emissions and save the ozone layer from depleting. The positive benefits outweighs the negative effects since reshaping of the entire world’s energy infrastructure will decrease global warming and will produce new forms of business for various economies to thrive on.
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