Fossil fuels have been in use for many years and have helped to power transportation and other systems. By burning fossil fuels, pollution is generated which can harm the environment, but the US government thinks that making this process cleaner could make a significant impact.
What Are Fossil Fuels?
Fossil fuels refer to natural fuels that are made from living things from the geologic past. Oil, coal, and natural gas are all examples of fossil fuels. Each kind of fossil fuel is non-renewable which means that there is a limited supply available that does not self-replenish.
Fossil fuels are typically mined and used to create electricity and heat in different applications. Fossil fuels are also widely used as energy sources for transportation. The mining of fossil fuels is a well-known cause of damage to the environment and other forms of renewable energy have been gaining popularity.
In the United States, the Energy Department oversees many different segments of non-renewable energy management. They work to maintain emergency petroleum preserves, handle regulatory matters, and work to ensure the responsible development of fossil fuels such as gas and oil.
The Energy Department also has a team of scientists working to develop new technologies that will allow fossil fuels to be used in conjunction with other clean energy sources. With the help of the technology that they develop, fossil fuels may be more suitable for long-term use with less harm being done to the environment in the process.
Fossil Fuels and The Environment
Fossil fuels and their effect on the environment is well documented. Not only are fossil fuels not considered to be “clean” energy, but they are considered to be harmful to the environment when mined, burned, and in some cases even stored.
The negative impacts have been widely studied by scientists who claim that 21.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released each year due to fossil fuel burning alone. The release of extensive amounts of carbon dioxide is also thought to be one of the primary causes of climate change that is occurring all over planet earth.
Although the United States is not the most populated place in the world, it does consume a disproportionately large amount of fossil fuels. Only 5% of the world’s population resides in the United States, however, the average fossil fuel consumption is about 25% of the total world supply.
Fossil fuels can also contain radioactive materials that are released when the fuel is burned. For example, in 2000 approximately 17,000 tons of radioactive material was released worldwide just from the burning of coal.
The burning of fossil fuels can also release nitric, sulfuric, and carbonic acid which eventually end up raining back down on earth in the form of acid rain. Not only is this incredibly detrimental to the environment everywhere that it occurs, but they can also degrade man-made structures prematurely.
Drilling and Mining
The gathering of fossil fuels is another exceptional way that the environment may be harmed beyond repair in many cases. Strip mining is a process used to mine coal and involves the removal of many layers of earth, usually starting at the top of a mountain and working downwards.
Not only does this process basically remove the mountain layer by layer and completely remove the local habitat there, it also spreads pollutants during the process of removing the coal. Explosives or other harmful chemicals are often used, and the local ecology suffers catastrophically.
Offshore drilling is another method of gathering the fossil fuel oil and involves the drilling of the ocean floor. While this method may be more common than people think, it can put aquatic wildlife and humans in great danger.
Offshore drilling can result in the spilling of oil which can contaminate the water for wildlife, humans, and potential food sources that feed both groups. Fish, shrimp, and other animals typically harvested for human consumption have been found to contain pollutants after oil spills in the area.
Regulation and Management
Different kinds of regulations and management techniques are used to keep fossil fuels in check and help preserve the supply. Some regulations dictate how much of a certain fossil fuel can be removed from the earth per year, or in total, while others focus on providing incentives.
Economic incentives exist to help limit pollution and waste caused by fossil fuels, and other programs help to provide corporations the option to voluntarily participate. Corporations that voluntarily participate in fossil fuel related programs and regulations are able to offset some of their corporate responsibility and do some good for the local community.
Taxation is an interesting method for controlling fossil fuels that make them more expensive while also funding programs to help keep fossil fuel mining safe. Taxes offer a very clear cost to the mining of fossil fuels that can help persuade corporations to only mine what is required to fulfill demand.
Adding taxes to fossil fuels and making them more expensive also helps to dissuade people from using them which in turn can help reduce pollution and the risk associated with mining activities.
Are Electric Cars A Better Option?
Electric cars are better for the environment in the sense that they do not use oil or gasoline in order to run and can be produced with fewer parts. They also run on electricity which can be generated using clean energy that is renewable and helps cut down on greenhouse gases.
Electric cars are also believed to need less maintenance as they lack the many moving parts of a gasoline-powered engine. The electric motor and battery inside them are the two most prominent parts of the car and have far fewer parts that could potentially fail.
On average the cost of purchasing and maintaining an electric car is marginally better than one running on gasoline. The operation costs of an electric car can potentially be far less than a gasoline-powered car.
Currently, gasoline powered vehicles are considered to be more practical, however with more electric car charging stations popping up all over the world that may soon change.
Electric Car Benefits and The Environment
Electric cars benefit the environment by utilizing electricity instead of gasoline. The process of mining for oil, refining it, and producing gasoline can have many negative impacts on the environment and may also create other toxins.
Electric cars can benefit the environment if their energy source is generated from a renewable option such as wind, solar, geothermal, or hydropower. Electric cars are also better for the environment because they lack harmful pollutants that come from the tailpipe of gasoline-powered vehicles.
Gasoline powered vehicles can emit a variety of pollutants from the tailpipe including lead, soot, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, and ozone. All of these particles end up in the air that we breathe when we are in proximity to vehicles.
It is safe to say that electric cars are better for the environment, but there are parts of the process of making electric cars that are just as harmful as their gasoline-powered counterparts. Electric cars are still made from parts, just as gasoline-powered cars and those parts must be manufactured and transported which can cause pollution.
Several countries have vowed to outlaw gasoline-powered vehicles in an effort to help stop climate change, and these countries have made great strides to achieve their goals. Their use of nuclear power, wind, and solar systems are great examples of how large-scale operations can harness clean energy as a power source.
Solar vehicles are an interesting option that has inched closer to being widely available in recent years. In 2019 the company Lightyear promised to deliver the first fully solar car design that would be available for consumers to purchase.
Whether or not there are fully solar powered vehicles in 2019, there is still the possibility of cars being aided by solar power, or solar power being used to charge up the batteries of electric cars. Toyota and Nissan have implemented solar panels and electric components to a model of their cars, and consumers seem responsive to the new technology.
Solar vehicles have a long road ahead before they are able to be the daily driver for most Americans. They are somewhat limited by the solar panels that they use to collect their power, and their ability to carry heavy weight may be a farther goal to reach.
Solar cars typically use batteries so that excess power can be stored for later use. A power storage option is a powerful tool for solar cars as it can help extend their range and increase their traveling speed.
New materials, better batteries, and more efficient solar panels are coming out at a consistent rate as new technology makes new designs and improved performance possible. Rare elements are sometimes used to make solar cars and are frequently part of their solar panels.
Solar cars may also have their drawbacks, but their ability to run on energy directly collected from the sun makes them a worthy alternative for those who live in frequently sunny environments. For those that do not live in sunny places, electric cars may still be a tempting option.