According to the Oxford Dictionary, alternative energy is energy fueled in ways that do not use up natural resources or harm the environment. Speaking generally, alternative energy means the kind of energy that is generated without incurring the unwanted consequences of the use of fossil fuels, like carbon dioxide emissions, which is, in the words of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main contributing cause of global warming. This brings home the fact that man should look for alternative energy sources to bring down the ill effects of global warming as well as air and water pollution which are the bane of contemporary life.
Alternative energy sources available now:
- Solar energy is the generation of electric power directly from the sun. It is of two kinds, thermal as well as electric energy. The former can heat our homes and the latter can generate electricity using solar panels.
- With wind energy, electricity can be generated from the wind using large-sized propellers as found in wind farms.
- Geothermal energy is readily available in several parts of the world as steam or boiling water from the interior of our planet, and these can be used to heat buildings and generate electricity.
- Bio-fuel like ethanol is manufactured in chemical plants and is used as substitutes of oil in powering motor vehicles and machinery. Corn based ethanol has led to people starving; algae and switch grass are much more intriguing.
- Hydrogen is a clean fuel that can provide the necessary power for vehicles, airplanes, and even spaceships. It is a by-product of water. It contains more amounts of energy than all other fuels because of its unique chemical structure.
Advantages of Alternative Energy Sources
Alternative energy sources can also mean the production of renewable energy, generated solely from natural resources like sunlight, geothermal heat, wind, tides, and rain. Unlike the production of fossil fuels, alternative energy sources need only very basic equipment and processes. Alternative energy sources, in fact, hold out the key towards mankind’s future; without them, planet earth is sure to eventually end up in a severe blackout or take us back right into the Middle Ages. Of course, this is all conjecture. After all, fossil fuels are one reason we do not live like they did in the Middle Ages in the first place.
However, none of the alternative energy sources mentioned above can resolve the evils caused by global warming. For instance, wind energy does not offer sufficient potential, and hydrogen and bio-fuels are mere possibilities, as all of them have related problems, too. Still, it is hoped that combined with further investment and improved technology, the problem can be solved by resorting to a combination of these sources. And this investment can come from increasing the search for fossil fuels, which can facilitate job growth and economic activity. Further, a tiny portion of this revenue can be used to develop bio-fuels such as algae and switch grass.
It is hard to talk about some of these types of energy, though, when America is sitting on top of piles of oil shale and natural gas that is cheap to develop.