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Fossil Fuels Debate Essay

Sustainability

Sustainability is the way for the planet to survive indefinitely without depleting its resources; in this way future generations can survive and fulfill their own needs (Mcgillca, n.d.). In other words, to be able to maintain a balance with the planet’s own natural cycles and the needs of the public. The fields of ecology and biology aim to study the natural environment and the interactions between organisms. Biology is the study of life and “ecology is a branch of biology that studies the interactions between organisms and their environment” (Esaorg, n.

d.). By studying organisms: their needs, the type of environment they require, and basically what is needed to sustain them can be identified. In addition, ecology places emphasis on educating the population about using Earth’s resources in an intelligent way to reduce waste to its minimum in order for future generations survival (Esaorg, n.d.). However, sustainability is about more than just the environment. The root of sustainability is “to sustain”, which means to maintain.

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The beauty of sustainability is it can be applied to more than one field; like the three pillars of sustainability which are economics, environmental, and social.

Three Pillars of Sustainability

Economic sustainability is mainly concerned with making a long-term fix that is able to ensure a healthy economy by promoting the use of resources we have and not creating a larger, more expensive short-term fix (Sustainable Development: Economy, 2013). Economic stability regarding fossil fuels mainly involves energy, employment, industry and trade. Environmental sustainability focuses on the quality of the environment, a better ecosystem for all, air quality such as recycling.

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One must mention, what about solar energy or wind power? These sources are not reliable, they might be infinite but present challenges as the sources can be sporadic depending on locations, making it difficult to rely 100% in them (Mitedu, 2016). Social sustainability deals with meeting the needs of individuals and still be able to fulfill those same needs in future generations. It revolves on the ability of understanding what people need from the environment, the places they work, the government, and each other in order to live successfully. These needs can be in the form of basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter (Vallance, Perkins, & Dixon, 2011).

Our Standpoint

Fossil fuels provide 81%t of total energy that Americans use in their daily lives; to state that fossil fuels are necessary for the world today would be an understatement to say the least. The numbers alone can convince one that fossil fuels are required to meet the demands of the growing population , but our standpoint further investigates this by exploring the ways fossil fuels insure us to continue living in the modern age. Fossil fuels are necessary for the world today because of the benefits they provide us such as: electricity, transportation, and the products they create.

About 5% of gas and oil is used to make petrochemical products annually. Petrochemicals main source are natural gas and oil because of their availability and inexpensiveness (Elmhurstedu, 2003). It is by refining oil and natural gas that petrochemicals can be created. Some are used directly such as methane, benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX). Other chemicals such as ethane, propane, and butanes placed at high temperatures in steam crackers produce intermediates. All of these components can be used in the processing of plastics, liquids and resins to make a final product (Gcpcenvisnicin, n.d.).

These petrochemicals are widely used in healthcare of the modern world. Plastic for example is derived from petrochemicals, most commonly polyethylene, and can be used to create disposable syringes, tubing, implants and artificial joints. These were only a few examples of the many products made from petrochemicals that are used in medicine to help combat or prevent diseases. According to the article Non-Fuel Products of Oil and Gas, “nearly 99% of pharmaceutical feedstocks and reagents are derived in some way from petrochemicals” (Americangeosciencesorg, 2018). A very common medicine that has been used since the 19th century is aspirin. Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid was created by German chemist Felix Hoffman, in 1897 and is one of the most commonly used drugs due to its effectiveness in treating headaches and minor pain. To synthesize aspirin, petrochemicals must be used, proving just how much fossil fuels are relied upon to provide a means of life (Semanticscholarorg, 2014). In fact, around 3% of petroleum stock goes to the making of pharmaceuticals (Elmhurstedu, 2003). Most drugs are made using petrochemical polymers or purified using petrochemical resins. For example, one use of the polymers is used to make the pill capsules and coatings (Sciencenotesorg, 2018). As well, the packaging for drugs is made with plastic which keeps the medication sterile and safe (Sciencenotesorg, 2018).

Another area that depends on the use of fossil fuels is agriculture. Agriculture and the growing of crops rely on fossil fuels in order to feed the overall global population (Nihgov, 2010). Machines use a mechanical tillage for the production of crops in agriculture, as well as facilities where the management of crops, meats etc. are done, need powerful energy. This energy is provided by fossil fuel energy (Nihgov, 2010). “EIA’s 2010 Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey estimates that the U.S. nitrogenous fertilizer industry consumed more than 200 trillion Btu of natural gas” (Eiagov, 2014). This means that the production of fertilizers and pesticides require significant input of energy (intensive energy), which utilize high amounts of natural gas.

Transportation also plays a large role in the new modern world. As mentioned above, the health care sector relies on petroleum for transportation. According to Eiagov (2017), the main energy for transportation came from the use of petroleum products that allegedly 92% of their use was for the purpose of transportation in 2017. One example of these petroleum products is gasoline which is the main petroleum product us in the United States. Gasoline is made from crude oil which is used mainly by motor vehicles such cars, motorcycles, boats, etc. Additionally, jet fuel, another petroleum product, is used mainly for planes and helicopters. It would be very difficult to replace all modes of transportation to be on a different fuel base other than petroleum in the next thirty years and there would be significant disruption to our global economy and modern way of life. In the healthcare world, for example, helicopters provide transportation for critical patients in settings such as catastrophes caused by natural disasters and in rural areas where a hospital is not as common (Eiagov, 2017). This is just one of many examples where fossil fuel based vehicles has dramatic benefits to humanity.

In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the very first electrical light bulb. This event was groundbreaking, in that it allows light to diffuse through buildings during anytime of day. It powers appliances, lighting, cooling, the internet and many more equipments that individuals rely on. In 2017, the United States alone consumed 3.82 trillion kilowatt hours in electricity. The production of electricity relies on fossil fuels; specifically coal and natural gas. About 30%of the electricity generated by the U.S. comes from coal and 32%comes from natural gas (U.S. Department of Energy, 2018). While fossil fuels have harmful counter affects, they are depended on greatly in terms of electricity and energy. No other resource will be able to provide enough energy to power all of the infrastructures throughout the day in our country or any others for that matter.

Opposing Viewpoint

Like everything in life, fossil fuels come with advantages and disadvantages. Many would argue that their disadvantages outweigh any of the advantages and should be banned. They would discuss how fossil fuels contribute to 65%of greenhouse gas emissions (Covert, Greenstone, & Knittel 2016). Nearly 30%of greenhouse gas emissions coming from each transportation and electricity. The amount of carbon dioxide released into the air by fossil fuels alone is enough to argue that fossil fuels are harmful for the environment. Recently, the carbon dioxide emission reached an all time high of 32.5 gigatonnes due to fossil fuels (International Energy Agency, 2017). The negative impacts of fossil fuels do not stop at air pollution; they impact the health of many individuals by causing water contamination, land degradation, and other such harmful side-effects.. The question that would be portrayed to the individuals who want to ban fossil fuels is: What do you propose could be put in place to replace all of fossil fuels and meet the demands of the world? Their answer will more than likely be by using renewable resources, which have their own faults as well.

While renewable resources are the environmentally appropriate choice, they are not ready to replace fossil fuels and probably never will be. With the issue of cost, many would argue that, “the global weighted average levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of utility scale solar PV has fallen 73% since 2010” (IRENA, 2018). This is missing a few components since when they do this levelised cost of electricity, they typically do not take in consideration that solar and wind energy are location and climate dependant. California has created a graph called the CAISO and shows how solar energy cannot function alone without an effective storage component, which has not been created yet. Geographic location and climate fluctuation are two main reasons solar or wind energy is not a long-term solution because it will always need a backup energy source.

Another argument would be that electric cars will take place of combustible engines and be more environmentally safe; however, that is not possible. The cost of batteries and electric cars are just too expensive. The graph Break-even oil prices and battery costs represents the range of prices for oil and batteries in 2020. It basically says that in 2020 the cost of oil will be $55 and to be able to compete with it, batteries must be $65. This is near to impossible because even the target cost of batteries in 2020 is $125. Oil needs to be $103 for battery to win out. Until there is an efficient energy source that can stand dominance at the same level of fossil fuels, the population will continue to rely on them (Covert, Greenstone, & Knittel 2016).

One very important argument against the claim that fossil fuels should be banned because of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions is the idea of regulation. There has been countless attempts to regulate fossil fuel production to limit the negative effects. An example of this is the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule passed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 21, 2018. This rule calls for regulation of coal-fired power plants to minimize greenhouse gas emissions specifically carbon dioxide. It requires states to choose an efficiency upgrade and candidate technologies that can remove the harmful components in coal and allow the usage of coal without the emissions of greenhouse gases. Although this is new, the EPA believes that this regulation will be effective and that by 2025 the carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by “13 and 30 million short tons, resulting in $1.6 billion in monetized domestic climate benefits” (EPA, 2018). This is just one example of how fossil fuels can be regulated in a way that limits their disadvantages and still allows for the use of its wide benefits in sustaining the world.

References

  1. Mcgillca. (n.d.). What’s sustainability?. Retrieved 8 October, 2018, from https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/what-is-sustainability.pdf
  2. Esaorg. (n.d.). Esaorg. Retrieved 8 October, 2018, from https://www.esa.org/esa/education-and-diversity/what-does-ecology-have-to-do-with-me/
  3. Seattlepicom. (n.d.). Seattlepicom. Retrieved 8 October, 2018, from https://education.seattlepi.com/effect-human-activities-environment-3653.html
  4. Unepnet. (2012). UNEP Sioux Falls. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from https://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=81
  5. Mitedu. (2016). Mitedu. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from http://ceepr.mit.edu/files/papers/2016-003.pdf
  6. Elmhurstedu. (2003). Elmhurstedu. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from http://chemistry.elmhurst.edu/vchembook/325petrochem.html
  7. Eiagov. (2017). Eiagov. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_transportation
  8. Woods, J. et al (2010). Energy and the food system. Retrieved 8 October, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935130/
  9. Eiagov. (2014). Eiagov. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=18431
  10. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/sustain
  11. Vallance, Suzanne, et al. “What Is Social Sustainability? A Clarification of Concepts.” Geoforum, vol. 42, no. 3, 2011, pp. 342–348., doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2011.01.002.
  12. Elmhurstedu. (2003). Elmhurstedu. Retrieved 7 October, 2018, from http://chemistry.elmhurst.edu/vchembook/325petrochem.html
  13. World-petroleumorg. (2013). World-petroleumorg. Retrieved 11 October, 2018, from http://www.world-petroleum.org/docs/docs/publications/petrochemicals/wpc-guide2_layout_lo-res.pdf
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  15. American Geosciences Org. Retrieved 11 October, 2018, from https://www.americangeosciences.org/sites/default/files/AGI_PE_NonFuels_web_final.pdf
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  17. Semanticscholar Org. (2014). Semanticscholarorg. Retrieved 11 October, 2018, from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5e9a/f12eecb0d610768b5c45b4f249cab0fbe630.pdf
  18. “Global CO2 Emissions from Energy Use Increased.” 2017, doi:10.1787/9789264268586-graph4-en.
  19. IRENA (2018), Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, International Renewable Energy Agency, Abu Dhabi.
  20. EPA “Proposal: Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Sept. 2018, www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/proposal-affordable-clean-energy-ace-rule.
  21. N/A. “Sustainable Development: Economy.” Sustainable Environment, 2013, www.sustainable-environment.org.uk/Economy/economy.php.
  22. Suplee, Curt. “The National Academies Presents: What You Need to Know About Energy.” Fossil Fuels -, The National Academy of Sciences, 2018, needtoknow.nas.edu/energy/energy-sources/fossil-fuels/.
  23. “Definition of ‘Sustain’ – English Dictionary.” Sustain Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/sustain.

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Fossil Fuels Debate Essay. (2021, Mar 05). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/fossil-fuels-debate-essay-essay

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