There are many energy sources that have been described in the recent past as being clean but the truth is that no energy source is clean as many claim. The variation of the energy sources is in their advantages and disadvantages (Raven, 2010). Whereas the disadvantages of energy source include cost, hazard potential and environmental damage, the advantages include energy safety, availability, versatility and density. Examples of energy sources include fossil fuels, solar energy, nuclear, hydropower and hydrogen fuel among others. Fossil fuels according to Raven (2009, p.
233) which is defined as “Combustible deposits in the Earth’s crust, composed of the remnants (fossil) of prehistoric organisms that existed millions of years ago”, comprise of natural gas, petroleum (oil) and coal. Of the all the energy sources used in the North America 80% is fossil fuels namely oil natural gas and coal. The energy source is nonrenewable in limited supply which is depleted by use. The natural processes responsible for the formation of fossil fuels are still in progress but it takes million of years to get substantial quantity of the energy which do not keep pace with its use.
In addition the fossil fuel is only found in two continents: South America and Africa and it are only a few countries in the continents which have the fossil fuel resources. Due to the fact that most of the fossil fuels are found in developing countries, there is lack of capital to extract the resources. Hence there is need to switch to other forms of energy to provide the needed energy that has been on rise. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel worldwide and it is found mainly in Russia, India, United States, South Africa, Germany, Australia and China which are on the northern hemisphere (Raven, 2010).
The mining of coal has serious environmental impact on the environment. Environmental impact associated with the mining of coal include large open trenches and pits; exposed high cliffs of rocks; toxic and acid drainage; pollution of water bodies as well as soil erosion. Such impacts pose serious risk to human and biodiversity lives as they can lead to landslide, intoxication, habitat destruction among others. Burning of coal also affects the water and air quality which leads to sooty fallout, ocean acidification and climate change.
Burning of coal which contains mercury releases the substance into the atmosphere and then to water and land thereby harm both man and wildlife. Oil and natural gas which has increasingly become important since 1930s provides about 70% of the world’s energy. It is more preferable than coal because it is cleaner, more versatile and easier to transport than coal. The environmental problems associated with the natural gas and oil is with regard to their combustion, production and transportation.
Combustion of the fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which insulates the planet which prevents radiation of the heat back into the space hence global warming. Their transportation has also led to oil spill which affected economies of the many regions. The spill like the recent Gulf coast oil spill also threatens wildlife (Raven, 2010). Nuclear is another source of energy that produces 100000 times more energy per atom in nuclear reaction, than the energy available in a chemical bond between two atoms. The energy is mainly derived from uranium which is a non renewable source.
Nuclear energy does not direct impact on the environment as other energy sources do but it generates radioactive waste like spent fuel (Raven, 2010). Other wastes include gases in the reactor and radioactive coolant fluids. The radioactive wastes and the spent fuel are dangerous because they are highly radioactive there by posing serious heal and environmental risks to man and the environment in general. Proper storage and measures of disposal are very fundamental to reduce such dangers. Nuclear energy also contributes to environmental pollution indirectly (Raven, 2010).
From the time uranium is mined, processed and disposed, good quantity of both diesel and gasoline is used which contribute pollute the environment directly. Some wastes which result from nuclear reactions like strontium-90, krypton-85 and cesium-137 have half-life of between 30 to 90 years and will take between 300 to 600 years before they decay to a level where they are safe. On the other hand there are high-level radioactive liquid wastes which are unstable and not easy to monitor thereby making them very dangerous. Such wastes are first converted to solid state before being stored (Raven, 2010).
Nuclear and utility executives have come up with a plan to promote nuclear energy and to put in place a strategy that will address the economic and safety issues associated with nuclear power. This includes a plan to build nuclear reactors that will be 10 times safer than the ones currently in use. There other energy sources which are renewable and they include solar energy, biomass energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy and tidal energy. Solar energy is derived from the sun and is perpetually available as opposed to other energy sources like uranium deposits, oil and coal which are found some particular areas (Raven, 2010).
We can only run short of the solar energy when the nuclear fire of the sun burns out. Solar energy is derived when the sun’s energy is absorbed by collection device such as a plate of black metal or a panel. The unique property of the sun light, whereby it passes through transparent objects but once it hits an object it releases invisible waves of heat called infrared radiation which cannot penetrate glass, allows solar energy to heat water bodies, building and other objects. Systems have been developed and used in the industrial and building processes where solar energy is concentrated to heat liquids.
Direct solar energy has been used to generate electricity by use of photovoltaic solar cells which produce electricity to the tune of 13000 MW globally. In other places well structured systems are used to generate solar thermal electric generation electricity. Energy is also derived from the sun indirectly for instance, burning of the biomass which includes organic matter like wood releases energy stored in plants during photosynthesis (Raven, 2010). Wind energy got from the wind by the use of wind turbines or windmills to generate electricity or mechanical energy is also a type of renewable energy.
Streams and rivers are also dammed in order to generate hydroelectricity. The energy exists in the water because it is the energy from the sun that drives the hydrological cycles. Biomass as a source of energy is very important because it lowers the rate at which we depend on the fossil fuel and since the energy is also derived from wastes it reduces the problem of waste disposal (Raven, 2010). However, when the balance shift from food production to biomass energy production, then the food prices is likely to go up which is disadvantageous.
Other sources of renewable energy are tidal energy and geothermal energy derived from changes in water level and naturally occurring heat respectively. In conclusion, the requirement of energy increases day by day therefore effort need to be put in energy conservation and development of technologies of alternative energy sources which requires less energy. It should also be the responsibility of every person and every household to economically use the available energy sources responsible so as to enhance energy savings (Light, 2003).
References Light, A. (2003). Environmental Ethics: An Anthology, 1e. Retrieved 19 May 2010 from: https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/DownloadList. aspx? assetMetaId=871324e1-b1c6-4d2d-85d0-de1f7aaf570e&assetDataId=d5e53d69-8288-4946-9a9b-69a18044be6a Raven, P. (2010). Environment 7e. Retrieved 19 May 2010 from: https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/DownloadList. aspx? assetMetaId=568808a6-a4f4-4b79-ac9c-845c0188b75a&assetDataId=68c16029-cca8-4bdd-8119-68f43458e29e