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Oil Alternatives

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Oil Alternatives

Examine the changing importance of three energy alternatives to oil [20 Marks] 1200 words. Correct citations.

Oil has been an important resource for humanity for centuries. It is easily accessible and efficient and over time has been extremely versatile in its uses. Today oil is used for fueling cars, cooking food, cosmetics, lubricants, paintings, organic chemistry, etc. For a long time oil has been the primary and main provider of energy, but due to increasing environmental effects, scarcity, and global inflation, it seems as if it will not last much longer. This essay will highlight the growing importance of three alternatives of oil that may rise to prominence in the future: algae biofuel, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric power.

The first alternative that will be discussed is algae biofuel. In essence algae biofuels are the same as normal fuels except that the components of the fuel are organic and biological rather than fossil fuel based. Production is caused through a series of chemical reactions and is nontoxic and renewable. Algae sources can be re-replaced through more farming. The standard production method consists of planting lots of algae pods and letting them interact with the sun and bacteria to create oil. (Howstuffworks) Although this method releases a lot of CO2 it is all taken back again through growing more algae. This is of the many advantages of algae biofuel. Firstly its production yield far surpasses that of other variations of organic biofuels.

In this diagram it can be seen that compared to all the other variations of organic biofuels, algae based ones produce 15000 gallons which is a great deal more than the others. Because it produces so much oil per acre, algae biofuel production does not require a lot of land to produce a lot of oil. (Biofueldigest) Algae biofuel also requires nutrients to grow and currently these nutrients are CO2 emissions in the air. This is useful due to the increasing levels of CO2 in the air and algae biofuel provides an easy way of reducing them. Due to its mystery and highly complicated scientific structure in the past, algae biofuel has been basically ignored in the past. Scientists did not know much about it and it was unexplored for a long time. But recent trends show that algae biofuel could be the future since it is the fastest growing renewable energy source. It increased by nearly 90% in the past 5 years to reach 4.5 billion liters of production. There are an increasing number of countries that want to invest in the research and production of algae biofuels. (Triplepundit) The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) noted that it signed 150 new companies in 2012 alone and that they received a total of $340 billon for further research on the matter and the U.S navy bought 100000 gallons of algae biofuel. At the moment algae biofuel is not a cost efficient alternative due to its low technological development and to improve this issue companies such as Diversified Technologies Inc. and Origin Oils Inc. are trying to invest in better production methods involving open pods and removing algae impurities. Over 50% of global algae biofuel is currently produced by Germany and they aim to increase this to 70% in the next decade. (Biofueldigest)

Another alternative to oil is nuclear power. Nuclear power is using the process of nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear fission is the energy released through the splitting of an atom. The heat is cooled down in the core of a power plant using water and the steam that is formed is used to move turbines which create the electricity. (Howstuffworks) One of the main reasons that nuclear power is considered a strong alternative to oil and is so useful is its environmental factors. It has relatively low operating costs and relatively lower emissions of greenhouse gases most notably CO2, making this a greener source of energy. It also creates a massive amount of energy (electricity) that can be easily transported to nearby towns and cities. Some of the disadvantages are concerns over the safety of people and the environment in case of an accident, scarcity of uranium, and no safe and sustainable waste disposal methods.

Nonetheless it was a popular source of energy in the pre-2010, yielding 10% of global electricity. In 2008 there were a total of 420 nuclear plants in the world, especially in countries in Europe. Currently countries with nuclear power as their primary source of electricity were and are France, Belgium, and Latvia with nearly 80% coming from nuclear plants. The U.S was and is one of the highest nuclear energy producers with 19%. (Triplepundit) Unfortunately in 2010 with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, countries are increasingly being opposed to the usage of nuclear power for energy generation. Countries like Germany and Switzerland, who were avid nuclear power users in the past, are now slowly turning away from nuclear power and turning to other alternatives. The future trend points to a rise of nuclear power in Asia due to economic stresses and a nuclear decline in Europe. 67% of plants under construction at the moment are in East Asia while plants in Germany and The Netherlands are expected to phase out. (Iaea) Global nuclear electricity production is predicted to drop from 16% to 12% in 2030 due to a decrease of almost 20 plants in the world in the future. Due to unsafe nuclear power plant conditions, its demand and importance is dropping in Europe while it is rising in Asia and the U.S.

The final alternative to oil is hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric power is a renewable energy source that uses the gravitational potential energy of falling water and the energy of moving turbines to create electricity. Dams are created on large bodies of water and can provide up to 22.5 gigawatts of energy. The reasons that hydropower is so useful currently is due clean energy production and low greenhouse gas emissions. Dam constructions are quite costly at the moment but dam maintenance is quite inexpensive which is good on in the long run since dams last from 50-100 years and can hold and store high capacities of water and energy for that time period.

Currently hydroelectric power is one of the world’s leading energy sources. Globally it produces nearly 4000 terawatts per hour of electricity and accounts for 24% of global electricity consumption. China is largest hydroelectricity producer with 721 terawatts per hour of electricity. Latino countries such as Paraguay produce 100% of their electricity from hydroelectric dams and then export some of it to neighboring countries. The future looks bright for hydroelectric power. 24 new projects have been started with the majority of them being in China, India, and some Latino countries. (Renewablegreenenergypower) China will remain the leading global hydroelectricity producer and the U.S aims at increasing hydroelectricity production to 50% of their total energy production, which is up from a current 20%. Hydroelectric power is projected to produce 40% of global electricity by 2040, although the scales of the plants/dams will be much smaller to account for smaller land use and greater energy capacity.

Although oil is slowly diminishing from Earth, humans have plenty of alternatives that can replace oil each with their sets of advantages and disadvantages. Algae biodiesel is the world’s fastest growing renewable energy source and production and consumption will increase exponentially in the future globally. Nuclear power will increase in places like Asia while it will decrease in Europe due to security and safety fears. Hydroelectric power is one of the world’s leading renewable energy sources and will continue to rise in the years to come but not at the rate of biofuel due to high costs, too big sizes, and chances of dam failures. Out of the three alternatives, algae biofuel is the most precious at the moment.

Citations

• Hess, Scott. "How Biodiesel Works." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "Great Big Things from Tiny Lil’ Algae: 10 Algae Trends for 2013." Biofuels Digest. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "Algae-based Biofuel: Pros And Cons." Triple Pundit RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "How Nuclear Power Works." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "Nuclear Energy: Pros and Cons." Triple Pundit RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)IAEA Home." Nuclear Power's Changing Future. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. .

• "Hydroelectric Energy (Power) Pros and Cons." Renewable Green Energy Power RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.…...

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