Why the use of fossil fuels has both benefits and negative effects.
Whythe use of fossil fuels has both benefits and negative effects.
Currently,fossil fuels are the most common sources of energy that is used byhuman beings to drive the industrial sector and the global economy atlarge. According to Science Daily, LLC (1) fossil fuels refer tohydrocarbons (including fuel oil, coal, and natural gas) that areformed following the decomposition of dead plants and animals, aprocess that takes hundreds of millions of years. This type of fuelis formed when the dead materials are exposed to pressure and heatwithin the earth crust. Fossil fuel is used in parts of the world isdrive mainly to drive the heavy industry and production ofelectricity (Judkins 331). Over the years, fossil fuels have been themost popular sources of energy because they are inexpensive andhuman’s ability to utilize them more efficiently than other typesof energy sources. Despite the large number of advantages of fossilfuels and their products, they have huge impacts to the environmentand human beings, which means that a viable solution should be foundto this dilemma to protect the future.
Thelarge scale use of fossil fuels dates back to the 18 th century, whenthe industrial revolution began. It was perceived to be the immediatesolution for driving the global economy and providing sufficientenergy to the population that was increasing at a high rate(Mitsubishi Heavy Industry 1). During this period the prominence offossil fuels increased following their wide applications that rangedfrom the driving of heavy industrial machines, locomotives, andhousehold use such as lighting (kerosene) homes. At present, about80 % of the commercial energy are fossil fuel with the projectionthat this type primary energy will remain the most popular source ofenergy for the next 50 years in spite of the large number ofenvironmental problems they are associated with (Judkins 331). Theindustrialized countries (including the United States, Russia, andChina) account for about 5 % of the total energy consumption globally(Mitsubishi Heavy Industry 1). This means that the consumption offossil fuels is positively related to industrial progress that anindividual country achieves. Therefore, the use of fossil fuel isexpected to increase continually given the fact that most theeconomies are gradually shifting from agricultural driven toindustrial driven economies.
Advantagesof fossil fuels
Theuse of fossil fuels in the transport industry
Fossilfuels are reliable sources of energy that makes human life easier andfaster. The use of this type of primary fuels has both direct andindirect impacts on nearly all people living on earth. For example,research shows that approximately 87.1 % of the total energy that isused in the transport industry is obtained from fossil fuels wherethe land transport consumes about 85 % of the total energy used inthe transport sector, marine transport accounts for 7 % and airtransport accounts for about 8 % (Rodrigue 1). The transport industryrequires a regular supply of energy, which is easily obtained in theform of such as gas, oil, and coal among other forms. All fossilfuels are easy to store and transport and this enhances their utilityin the transport industry. This means that fossil fuels havesignificant contribution towards the movement of people and goodsfrom one point to their destination.
Stabilityof fossil fuels
Thechemical composition of fossil fuels makes them among the most stablesources of energy. The basic molecules that form fossil fuels includecarbon and hydrogen, which differ in amount and the type chemicalbonds in different types of fuels (Conserve Energy Future 1). Thisenhances the stability of fossil fuels, which do not change todifferent compounds over time. This constancy of fossil fuelsimproves their storability and transportation without the fear oftheir change to other compounds. In addition, fossil fuels containsome 13C and 12C, which are stable isotopes that do not change over time (U.S.Department of Commerce 1). The nuclear energy, in comparison, isproduced as a product of frequent change of the radioactive compoundsfrom type of element to another. The unique chemical composition offossil fuels increases its capacity to stay in the same state formany years compared to other forms of energy.
Althoughthe world has been on the verge to look for alternative sources ofenergy to replace the environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels, theabundant availability of these fuels has maintained their dominancein the energy sector. The vast presence of fossil fuels over theglobe gives them their current proportion (87 %) of the usage of allenergy consumption globally (Rodrigue 1). Many reserves of fossilfuels (including coal, gas, and oil) have been discovered within thelast one hundred years, and this has increased the availability offuels for consumption. Although it is projected that fossil fuelswill deplete in the next 40-50 years leading to occasions of powerrationing, the current supply of these fuels is sufficient to sustainoperations that require the use of energy (Conserve Energy Future 1).Compared to other sources of energy (such as nuclear energy, fossilfuels are more accessible.
Lowcost of fossil fuels
Fossilfuels are available for consumption at a lower cost compared to othersources of energy. The low cost of fossil fuels is achieved in twoways. First, the technology required to set the extraction facilitiesfor fossil fuels if cost effective provided that the target reservehas sufficient fuels (Conserve Energy Future 1). This means that thecost of extracting fossil fuels from the earth`s crust is cheapercompared to setting up facilities for other types of energy,including the nuclear energy. Secondly, the cost of processing thecrude fossil fuels to their usable forms if cheap in terms of financeand technology, which further reduces the cost of production and themarket price of fossil fuel products. The high cost of investing inother sources of energy (such as wind turbines and solar power)reduces the capacity of people to install them and go for fossilfuels, which are cheaper to extract and process.
Fossilfuels and the environment
Combustionof fossil fuels is one of the leading environmental threats in thepresent world. According to Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (1) combustionof fossil fuels contributes about 90 % of the global carbon dioxideemission, which is the major cause of the greenhouse effect. Inaddition, overreliance on fossil fuels as the sources of energy leadsto the emission of other types of greenhouse gases, includingmethane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbon.Emission of these greenhouse gases leads to their increase above therequired proportion. The disproportionate concentration of thesegases is the primary cause of the global warming, which leads toadverse effects such as rising sea levels and health effects. Inaddition, incomplete combustion of fossil fuels leads to an increasein particulate matter (including grit and lighter particles) whoseinhalation cause disease. This means that continued use of fossilfuels is a major environmental concern across the globe.
Acidrain is one of the negative effects of over-consumption of fossilfuels in the modern world. Environmental Protection Agency (1)defined acid rain as the mixture of both dry and wet dispositionsfrom the atmosphere, which contain proportions of sulfuric acid andnitric acid that are higher than normal. Acid rain is caused bynatural occurrences (such as volcanoes), but human activities(including industrial operations and transport) are the major causes.The rain is formed when greenhouse gases, especially nitrogen oxidesand sulfur dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere (EnvironmentalProtection Agency 1). These gases react with atmospheric moisture andoxygen to form acidic compounds that fall on the ground in the formof rain. The acidic rain has numerous negative effects, which includethe destruction of forests, corrosion of buildings and otherarchitectural infrastructure, and reducing the pH of the soil and itsproductivity. These effects affect human life either directly orindirectly.
Theimpact of oil spills on aquatic life
Oilspills affect aquatic organisms directly or through the operationsthat are carried out in an attempt to clean up the affected aquaticsystem. Oil spills occur in many ways, but the common ones includethe leakage of fossil fuels in the sea-based mining sites andaccidents on ships that carry fossil fuels. The spill affects marinelife in three ways that leads to a significant disruption of theaquatic ecosystem. Fist, aquatic animals gets internal damages(including the damage of kidney, red blood cells, and the liver) intheir body when they ingest oil (U.S. Department of Commerce 1).Secondly, oil spills increase the chances for the predation ofaquatic animals (such as birds) by making it difficult for them toflee from their predator. Third, oil spills reduces the reproductivecapacity of aquatic organisms through the destruction of theirreproductive hormones and eggs. In overall, spilling of fossil fuelsaffects the entire life of aquatic organisms.
Fossilfuels and the world
Thegrowth of the world economy has depended on fossil fuels since theonset of the industrial revolution. Some of the key factors that madethe fossil fuels the key pillar of the global economic progressinclude their availability, easy extraction, and most importantly thelow prices. However, trends show that the price of all products offossil fuels is rising steadily without the hope of future decline.According to Heinberg (1) a continuous increase in the price of theproducts of fossil fuels has resulted from two major factors. First,overdependence on fossil fuels has allowed the market forces ofdemand and supply to take their course leading to a sharp increase inprices. Secondly, the oil fields that are being discovered aresmaller compared to earlier oil reserves. The small oil reservesrequire the use of high technology for successful extraction thatthis inflates the price of the extracted products.
Fossilfuels and human health
Althoughfossil fuels are the major sources of energy that drives the worldeconomy their use generates products that have negative effects onhuman health. Different products of fossil fuels contain varyingtypes of compounds that are potentially hazardous to human health.The use of coal increases the chances of human exposure to arsenic,whose health effects include the liver cancer, liver poisoning, andkeratosis of feet and hands (Sherwood 1). Coal also contains mercury,which increases the risk of brain damage and kidney damage. Theinhalation of oil vapors exposes human beings with a wide range ofhealth problems, including vomiting, eye irritation, and respiratoryproblems (Sherwood 1). Human beings may also be exposed to dangerouscompounds without their knowledge. For example, methane is anodorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that can cause nausea,headache, and respiratory problems.
Fossilfuels are non-renewable resources that subject the world economy to agreat risk of collapse in the event of their depression. This type offuels is made after millions of years of the decomposition of organicproducts mainly from the remains of animals and plants. This impliesthat the process of forming new fossil fuels may be much slower thanthe rate at which the human activities (including the industrialoperations and transport) are demanding them. Consequently, it isestimated that fossil fuels will be depleted within the next 40-50years, an occurrence will force human beings to search foralternative sources of energy with similar capacity as fossil fuels,but they are yet to be mentioned (Conserve Energy Future 1).Therefore, the non-renewable nature of the fossil fuels (includingpetroleum, natural gas, and coal) is a matter of concern to theworld.
Needfor the huge amount of reserves of fossil fuels
Therapid increase in the global demand for hydrocarbon fuels calls forthe discovery of huge fuel reserves, but the opposite is happening.At present the global consumption of fossil fuels accounts highestproportion of the total energy, means that the current reserves mightnot sustain this high rate of consumption. Consequently, there is aneed for faster exploration of potential oil reserves to ensure thatthe available fossil fuels are sufficient to keep the world economyrunning as usual. Unfortunately, research shows that the reservesbeing discovered at present have less fuel compared to earlierreserves (Heinberg 1). This contradicts the current trend ofcontinuous increase in demand for fossil fuels.
Strategiesto prevent environmental problems caused by fossil fuels
Managementand reduction of emissions
Business,especially the manufacturing and processing firms contribute a largeproportion of the total emission of the greenhouse gases. Accordingto Brown (1) industrial emission accounts for about 40 % of the totalcarbon dioxide emitted globally. To make it worse, the demand formanufactured and industrially processed goods is projected to doubleby the year 2015, which will increase the risk of environmentalpollution by business. This implies that businesses have a major roleto play in the management and reduction of emission of compounds thathas the capacity to pollute the environment. This can be achieved intwo ways, namely an increase in energy efficiency and shifting torenewable sources of energy.
Increasein energy efficiency
Manufacturingfirms should play an active role of protecting the environment fromdegradation by green gas emissions. These businesses can do this byreplacing the old technology with modern technology that requires theuse of less energy to give the same or better results. For example,the heat recovery technology as well as integration alternatives(power generation from calorific gases during the process of ironsmelting) can reduces the intense use of fossil fuels to driveindustrial machines (Brown 2). In addition, the installation of crosscutting technologies can reduce the excessive use of fossil fuels.For example, the installation of equipments and systems that has awide range of applications can reduce the need for use of many typesof equipment that are specialized for different process, thus cuttingfuel consumption.
Shiftingto renewable sources of energy
Althoughthe use of fossil fuels has several benefits (include the low priceand vast availability), businesses can contribute significantly inthe efforts to conserve the environment by using renewable sources ofenergy. Biofuel is one the renewable sources of energy thatindustries can use instead of relying on fossil fuels. Biofuels havea lesser carbon emission rate, which implies that their use can besafer compared to fossil fuels. In addition, research shows thatshifting to feedstock as a source of energy can result in emissionsavings by 0.95 GtCo2 by the year 2050 (Brown 2).
Thereare many ways through which individual persons can help in reducingcarbon emission. First, reducing water consumption and wastage canreduce emission of greenhouse gases because many water treatmentplants use fossil fuels to purify water (Chavez 1). Most of theelectricity production plants use fossil fuels, which can be reducedby using energy efficient bulbs in homes. This can also be achievedby using an appliance (such as dishwashers) that consumes lessenergy. Moreover, individuals can save energy by using lesselectricity, which can be achieved by lighting bulbs when it isnecessary.
Theprocess of minimizing the miles can be interpreted to mean areduction of the distance that one travels in a given time or thedistance that an individual travel using a means that depends onfossil fuel. Emission reduction through the miles minimization can beachieved in three ways. First, taking a bus instead of using apersonal car can reduce the number of fuel consuming machines on theroads (Chavez 1). Secondly, carpooling in schools and places of workcan minimize the number of vehicles used. Third, usingtechnology-based means of communication (such as email and telephonecommunication) instead of traveling to meet people can reduceemission. This means that individuals have a major role of conservingthe environment by reducing the amount of gases they emitunnecessarily.
Despitethe large number of advantages of fossil fuels and their products,they have huge impacts to the environment and human beings, whichmeans that a viable solution should be found to this dilemma toprotect the future. The need for industrial development has been themajor cause of high demand for the use of fossil fuel since the onsetof the industrial revolution. This source of energy is associatedwith several benefits, including availability, stability and lowcost. However, fossil fuels have negative effects on the environment,including the emission of greenhouse gases, acid rain, anddestruction of aquatic ecosystem. The conflict between the world andthe fossil fuel sector arise from the continuous rise in prices ofthis type of energy, negative effects on human health, theirnon-renewable nature, and the ever increasing demand. Both businessesand individuals have a role of protecting the environment by reducingtheir greenhouse gas emission rates.
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