Proposal Essay for English Comp. I

Kevin Laybourn

Western Governors University

Proposal Essay for English Comp. I

The world runs on a lot of energy.  In fact in 1997 the world produced approximately 130 quadrillion BTU of Energy from oil, 80 quadrillion was from BTU from coal, and 70 quadrillion BTU from natural gas. (Towards Sustainable Energy, By Alison Riddell, Steve Ronson, Glenn Counts, Kurt).  That is a problem. As it stands right now, it would seem fossil fuels are a limited resource (Wikipedia Peak oil 2016). They are also probably are the number one contributor to global warming (Wikipedia Fossil fuel 2016).  If our civilization is to survive past the 21st Century, we will need to at least lower our dependence on fossil fuels, and hopefully eliminate its need. It will take many different technologies, Such as Nuclear, Wind, Solar, Biomass, and others to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.

As most of our Fossil Fuel usage comes from power generation, Nuclear Fission would be a good place to start. It already composes 10% of the total worldwide power generation (Wikipedia Nuclear power 2016).  Nuclear Power dose not release any carbon dioxide.  Although nuclear waste is an issue there have been vast improvements in the storage and processing of such waste.  Also with current carbon offset and carbon tax programs, the high capital investment that goes into building nuclear power plants may be offset (Wikipedia Nuclear power 2016).  In order to reduce or eliminate fossil fuels, nuclear will have to be part of that bigger effort.

Another possible area that nuclear power could be used is in the freight industry.  Obviously it would not be a herculean effort to switch sea going vessels from diesel engines to nuclear powered. Although there would be a massive capital outlay, fuel savings would offset the cost. Most first world navies run nuclear powered fleets.  The Former Soviet and current Russian company Rosatomflot runs ten nuclear vessels, which compose of nine icebreakers and one cargo vessel with an ice breaking bow (Wikipedia Nuclear-powered icebreaker 2016).  Trains would be the next target.  The easiest way would be to retrofit locomotives with the dual ability to run on Diesel and electricity.  This is already implemented in parts of the world (Wikipedia Electric locomotive 2016).  The idea of a nuclear powered locomotive has been looked into, but may be harder to implement the electrification idea (Sanders Nuclear Powered Trains 2015). These ideas will definitely help lower our dependence on fossil fuels and are technologies already available.

Automobiles are another big user in the fossil fuels arena.  There have been already leaps and bounds in this arena. More and more cars are being sold as either hybrid cars or electric. Electric cars are beginning to match the range of gasoline powered cars. The ones that aren’t hybrids are becoming more and more efficient and can use both fossil fuels and organic fuels as a source.  Older gasoline vehicles can be retrofitted to run on dual fuel system for gasoline or ethanol.  Older Diesel Vehicles will run on any oil of sufficient power with no modification. That can be vegetable oil, nut oil, biomass oil product, or any petrochemical fuel that suitable enough.  The automotive industry is already on a path to cleaner and alternative fuels.

Offsetting power Generation at the residential and commercial building side will also help reducing Fossil Fuel generation.  Using solar panels and micro wind turbines will reduce or offset power usage.  Small wind turbines can generate anywhere from 1 to 300 KW (Wikipedia Small wind turbine 2016). Solar installations can vary between 1 to 4 KW at the residential level to 0.25 to 2 MW on a commercial building install (Wikipedia Solar panel 2016).  Although these technologies are great at offsetting use, they are dependent on the weather.  Solar panels work best when there is enough sunlight available to generate power. Windmills need wind to generate power.  These Technologies are great for reducing dependence on fossil fuels, but will not eliminate the need for power plants.

This leaves, last but not least, the plastics industry. This will be the hard one.  Most of the feedstock for new plastic is from natural gas, in fact 82% of it is (U.S. Energy Information Administration, How much oil is used to make plastic? 2016). Most of our modern materials are derived from some form of polymer or plastic. Although natural gas can also be created from landfills and Biomass generators, the fossil fuel natural gas available, compared to coal or oil, is massive.  Even with heavy government taxation on natural gas, it still might be cheaper to use the fossil fuel version of natural gas. There has been inroads using soy and hemp to help make plastics, but the procedure is limited to rubber type plastics.   As time goes on, we will need to find a way to either lessen our need for plastic or find an alternative to feed our need for it.

With all these combined efforts, our dependence on fossil fuels will significantly lessen.  We can look to a cleaner world with still having plenty of power available to use.  It is still unknown if we will ever eliminate our usage of fossil fuels, but if we can reduce them significantly, we will be better off.   It will take all kinds of different technology, like nuclear, wind, solar, biogas, and others to get us there.  Also as new technologies come along, like nuclear fusion, hopefully they will help us continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

References

By Alison Riddell, Steve Ronson, Glenn Counts, Kurt. (n.d.).

Towards Sustainable Energy: The current Fossil Fuel problem and the prospects of Geothermal and Nuclear power. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/trade_environment/energy/hfossil.html

Fossil fuel. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel

How much oil is used to make plastic? (2016, April 25).

Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=34&t=6

Electric locomotive. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_locomotive

Nuclear power. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power

Nuclear power. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power

Nuclear-powered icebreaker. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear-powered_icebreaker

Peak oil. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

Sanders, C. (2015, March 20). Nuclear Powered Trains.

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2015/ph241/sanders1/

Small wind turbine. (n.d.).

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_wind_turbine

Solar panel (n.d.)

Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_panel

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