In 2004, the world production of oil was estimated at just over 29. 7 Bbl. The corresponding world consumption for oil during the same period was estimated at 29. 6 Bbl of oil, leaving a surplus of just under 0. 1 Bbl at the end of the year. In the United States, one of largest consumer markets for oil and oil products, from the first week in September 2004 to the first week in September 2005, gasoline prices increased by a staggering $1. 22 per gallon to $3. 12 before dropping to $2. 25 on November 21, 2005.
These figures are quite staggering considering that contracts for crude changed hands at 10 USD/barrel in 1999 (Bilgen and Kaygusuz 2004). With the emergence of China in the global market and its increasing demand for oil, it is projected that unless oil companies are able to increase the world production by investing investment in oil and natural-gas production oil prices could increase exponentially over the next ten (10) years. Since oil remains the main energy source in most countries, the demand for oil will remain constant despite the changes in the price of oil (Case, 1999).
While theoretically it is expected that there will be a greater demand for oil if the price decreases, it is important to factor in the fact that more governments around the world are implementing energy saving policies as well as trying to reduce to dependence on oil as an energy source by developing alternative sources of energy (hybrid cars, solar power, hydroelectric power) (Simmons, 2005). Given the volatility of oil supply and prices coupled with the harmful effects that fossil fuels have on the environment, it is important to discuss the pros and cons of alternative sources of energy.
The most popular and arguably most powerful source of energy today is the sun. Solar energy has been touted as the solution to the world’s energy problems. Being free and efficient, solar energy is a viable replacement for the energy that fossil fuels provide and as a primary source of energy it is renewable (Serra 2006). One drawback, however, is the fact that current technology to harness the sun’s rays is expensive and cannot be availed of by many, especially those in developing countries.
On top of this, in order for enough solar energy to be a viable source of alternative energy there has to be an ample supply of it (Serra 2006). This means that a large area which is constantly sunny is the ideal place for the proper utilization of solar energy. There is a lot of promise in this field, however, and soon, as the technology for this improves, solar energy may indeed shed light on the energy problems of the world. Another form of alternative energy that is free and renewable is wind energy.
In places that are particularly breezy and have no constant sunlight, harnessing wind energy is a very effective source of clean and renewable energy (Bilgen and Kaygusuz 2004). It has been shown in studies that when the wind is strong it can provide up to 20% of a country’s energy needs (Serra 2006). Aside from the energy that it can provide, it also promises clean and efficient energy as there are no harmful effluents that are produced and it does not require as much space as solar energy. One problem, however, is the fact that wind may not always be constant (Serra 2006).
When the wind slows down to a certain speed it also can no longer be harnessed. This being said, life would certainly be a breeze if the
The downside to this form of energy, however, is the fact that the construction and maintenance for hydroelectric power dams is expensive. While there are developments in micro hydro technology, hydroelectric dams can also displace several communities, destroy forest resources and kill other fishes and aquatic life in the area (Serra 2006). This means that while hydroelectric power is certainly a very viable solution to the energy problems of the world there must be several things that should be sorted out and improved for it to be useful as the world’s main energy source.
Another alternative energy source that is making waves is the energy that can be harnessed from tidal energy. Similar in function to hydroelectric energy, this type of energy uses turbines that harness the rise and fall of the tides. The natural flow of the oceans currents is harnessed in order to produce energy (Serra 2006). However, due to the peculiarity of the energy source, it cannot be located just anywhere. There are very few sites that are feasible for the location of tidal energy plants and it also poses a threat to local fishing and fisheries (Bilgen and Kaygusuz 2004).
Also because tides only occur at certain times of the day it is not as efficient as the other energy types. One of the largest growing sources of alternative energy is biomass. Since this form of alternative energy has a two-fold advantage, reduction of waste and generation of energy, it seems to be the best solution to the world’s energy problems Bilgen and Kaygusuz 2004). Taking animal waste, agricultural crops, grains, wood, mill residues, forest, and aquatics, biomass plants ferment these wastes to generate gases that are then burned to create energy Bilgen and Kaygusuz 2004).
The obvious downside to this, however, is that there are harmful effluents that are released. While it indeed captures the gases that are produced, it also releases energy from the burning. The Life in the lap of luxury is indeed a very convenient life but as it is it will be a lifestyle that will be nearly impossible to sustain. It is wonderful to take advantage of all of the technological advancements that are available today but one must always ask whether or not the tradeoff is worth, a moment of pleasure that could be disastrous for this generation and the next.
References Serra, J. “Alternative Fuel Resource Development”, Clean and Green Fuels Fund, (2006). Bilgen, S. and K. Kaygusuz (2004), Renewable Energy for a Clean and Sustainable Future, Energy Sources 26, 1119. Jeff Tester and Ron DiPippo (2007-06-07). “The Future of Geothermal Energy” (PDF). US Department of Energy – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. http://www1. eere. energy. gov/geothermal/pdfs/structure_outcome. pdf. Retrieved on 2008-04-16.