Work on energy efficiency, is ongoing, and will be necessary considering that global energy consumption continues to rise at an increasing pace. This includes efficiency in all areas: Production, distribution, storage, and usage. It will entail working to find ways to make devices in all areas do the same with less energy, including transportation, factories, equipment, entertainment, and home use. Insulation in buildings is another method of increasing energy efficiency. Educating the public on energy use and how to be more efficient will be another mode. There are many areas where energy efficiency can be talked about, planned for, worked on, and implemented. It will take the combined efforts of lawmakers, business owners, and the general public to make real impacts in the varied areas that comprise efficient energy use.
Hydrogen as a fuel is very environmentally sound considering it becomes water when burned with pure oxygen. Hydrogen production is energy-intensive, and storage is difficult. The two main methods of production are steam reforming and hydrolysis, with steam reforming making up approximately 95% and electrolysis 4%. There is ongoing research into many other methods of producing hydrogen, but all are currently expensive. With the ease of extracting oil and natural gas from the earth and the amount of money that oil companies make on those resources, this and other renewable sources of energy will continue to be minor inputs to the energy use of this and other countries for the foreseeable future. More research needs to be done.
Coal is plentiful and relatively convenient. It has many uses other than as an energy source. However, it is monumentally polluting. It is the largest single input of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There is no ‘clean’ coal, only less-polluting versions of using coal as an energy source. There are ways to turn coal into other products, including gas, but all of these are again, polluting to some extend, just less than coal on its own. We must invest in energy production that does not involve coal mining and burning.
Nuclear energy is very powerful but also very polluting. The radioactive waste creates problems for a very long time, and is very costly to attempt to clean up. Virtually all energy production gives rise to pollution. And while some are considerably more polluting than others, all of them can be dealt with, mitigated, and cleaned up, some more easily than others. However, production of energy using our current Light Water Reactors (LWR’s) produces waste than cannot be cleaned up as the resulting isotopes are active for hundreds, thousands, or millions of years. It simply has to be gathered together and buried, deep, in a form that is as impervious to the wear of the elements over that extraordinarily long time frame. Breeder reactors could significantly decrease the sheer massive volume of nuclear waste, but that is not used in the US because of Congressional short-sightedness. The IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) has been proven to be safe and effective in drastically reducing the radioactive waste normally generated by LWR’s. The original program was cancelled at a greater cost than that of finishing it. There is essentially no CO2 emission from a nuclear power source, and it has the capacity to burn long-lasting transuranic waste. If we are going to continue to use nuclear power for energy, we must rid ourselves of the huge amount of tremendously long-lived radioactive pollution generated by typical reactors, thus necessitating that we replace them with Fast Breeder Reactors (the IFR concept above). It will take a firm hand to direct the process but it can be done.
Expand Energy Production:
With energy use continuing to increase, it is obvious that expansion of energy sources will be required. This will obligate us to provide substantially greater funding for infrastructure. Funding should be provided heavily to the renewable sector, primarily solar, wind, and hydroelectric. Incentives should be given to those companies and individuals who purchase renewable energy equipment, along with being able to sell the electricity generated back to the power company if they are hooked up to the grid.
Whatever sources of energy that we employ must be used in an environmentally-friendly way, not just used indiscriminately with the resulting waste strewn about the place to the detriment of all. Realistically, clean energy is only going to be produced by means other than burning fuels. This means renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power, hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal/wave energy. If human beings want to continue to be able to live and enjoy the Earth, we must immediately begin the move from burning things to non-emission technologies.
The use of solar energy has been increasing every year. It is a renewable, clean source of energy that can be implemented almost anywhere on the surface of the Earth. There is so much solar energy hitting the surface of the Earth at any given moment to support all of the Earth’s energy needs for hundreds of years. If we were to build solar farms covering huge tract of unusable deserts across the globe, those solar farms could easily support all of the energy needs of the entire world. The resources and technology already exist to make this happen, but other powerful entities keep it from happening. I support increased funding for solar power, as it is ‘free’ and produces no emissions after the equipment is produced, and can be put in areas of the Earth that people generally do not live in. And because it is always sunny somewhere on the surface of the Earth, there will be constant production of energy, particularly when combined with one of many available temporary storage methods for when the sun goes down. I suggest clicking on the link below and examining the map that will display the area necessary to supply all of the Earth’s power requirements through solar energy alone.
With only one planet from which to derive all of our resources, I say it is a basic necessity to find sources of energy that are renewable, not those that depend on a finite source of material. Renewable energy is that which does not depend on a limited resource such as coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear isotopes. Even though any one of those four listed resources could fuel the energy needs of the planet for significant time periods -- many decades with oil and gas, as much as two hundred years with coal, or thousands of years with proper utilization of fission energy, they are all monumentally polluting; radiation from isotopes can last for thousands or even millions of years and will contaminate everything it comes into contact with. The carbon dioxide injected into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for more decades or hundreds of years will cause global warming to turn into a runaway catastrophe that we may not be able to fix and may not survive. Money -- a lot of money -- is going to have to be spent on solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, tidal/wave energy in order to keep people alive on this planet without turning it into a bargain-basement version of the planet Venus. I strongly support renewable energy.