Fossil fuels get a lot of bad press, but are there advantages? Will moving the global economy from Fossil Fuel Energy to Alternative Energy be worth it? Following on from last month’s article, we will discuss the pros and cons of both fossil fuels and alternative energy sources to compare them.
What is Fossil Fuel Energy and Renewable Energy?
So, a quick recap of what fossil fuel energy and renewable energies are. Fossil fuels are formed from fossilised organic matter such as animals and plants. They can create vast amounts of energy due to the high carbon content, so people begin to use it in the 1880s to generate power. Fossil fuels include petroleum, coal, and natural gas.
On the other hand, renewable energy is a natural resource that can regenerate itself even with human consumption. Examples of renewable energy sources include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, ocean, and hydropower.
Understanding what fossil fuel energy and renewable energies are, we can look at the positives and negatives of each.
Transportation and Storage
One benefit of using fossil fuel energy is that their transportation is simple. Examples include tankers or pipeline systems. Renewable energy is sent out through a grid to transmission lines. However, the logistics are still in motion because if the source destination isn’t in the immediate surroundings, some energy is bound to be lost.
Fossil fuels can be stored for an indefinite amount of time, handy in preparing for the winter months. However, a lot of space is required to find, extract and produce the fuels into usable power.
On the other hand, batteries are used to store renewable clean energy, which can wear out quickly, and then that power can be lost, if stored incorrectly. Also, renewable energy generation technologies take a lot of space to install (even more than extracting fossil fuels). It takes almost 100 acres of land for solar panels to generate approximately 20 megawatts of energy. To put this into perspective, a nuclear power plant taking up this amount of space would produce five times the amount that solar panels could manage.
Fossil fuel energy is cheap because we have a well-developed infrastructure to manage them, so they can be utilised effectively. Because surplus can be stored, prices of fossil fuels are lowered if the weather is mild.
The storage cost of renewable energy may turn out to be more expensive if batteries for energy storage are not efficient enough, for example. In addition, batteries can wear out quickly. Hence, a high and expensive maintenance cost is necessary. On the other hand, renewable energy could help save money in the long term.
Renewable energy can be a little fickle for providing power for us. For example, the sun needs to be shining for solar panels to collect power, and it needs to be windy for wind turbines to be efficient. If conditions aren’t ideal, the instruments will only use half of the maximum capacity.
Currently, we have more control over fossil fuels but with the right incentive for businesses from the government, this can change.
Pros and cons of Energongevity of Sources
Fossil fuels are not renewable energy sources. Unless we reduce our consumption, they will run out quickly, maybe even in our lifespan. On the other hand, renewable energy is exactly what it sounds like; it renews despite our consumption. There is no possibility of running out of renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuel energy. We can use as much as we can harness and not fear about it depleting like fossil fuels currently are.
Fossil fuels pollute the environment. The major disadvantage is them contributing to greenhouse gases. Coal is the most harmful because of the by-products of combustion. Natural gas happens to have the least environmental impact of fossil fuels because there aren’t many harmful compounds under the correct combustion circumstances.
Renewable energy is eco-friendly with no serious environmental pollution. It has low or no greenhouse emissions or carbon. Some may say the production of wind turbines, for example, requires fossil fuels to be used during the manufacturing process thus offsetting the benefits of energy produced this way. This may be true now, but with further development of the production technology such obstacles will be resolved and green-energy can become equally efficient to fossil fuel energy.
Production of fossil fuel energy impacts our health just as much as the environment, and they are closely connected. Pollution caused by fossil fuels can cause health issues for people, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and potentially some forms of cancer. The mining of fossil fuels is also dangerous for workers. Many instances of mines collapsing in the past, or fires happening, oil rigs exploding and noxious gases released for workers to accidentally breathe in have happened, even if this has gotten better over time due to machinery help and PPE being provided.
There are also dangerous impacts on animals. Deepwater drilling for oil has resulted in explosions in the past, causing horrific marine oil spills and killing marine creatures. On land, extracting fossil fuels includes removing everything out the way in preparation, so local wildlife habitats are destroyed, and animals left defenceless.
On the other hand, renewable energy barely has any health impacts; even boosting public health in general. Fewer greenhouse gases are released, reducing pollution, reaching a smaller carbon footprint, and providing a healthier atmosphere for us to breathe in.
There are actually more pros and cons to fossil fuel energy and renewable energy. We’ve only focused on the leading causes. It is clear that renewable energy is the future, even if it is by default of fossil fuels running out. Moving the global economy from fossil fuel energy to alternative energy now will be good for us later on.