Everything has Consequences

The problem with needing energy is that every source has drawbacks. Whether it is a byproduct of converting the energy or difficulty in obtaining the raw materials, there is something about every current method of energy production that is undesirable.

People have big concerns over fossil fuels, whether it be the cost, accessibility, or the harmful pollution we create as a byproduct of consumption. Oil, gas, and coal create pollution and can damage the environment when we attempt to access or transport it. These have been our primary sources of energy for so long that we tend to forget about the damage it causes to air quality or if there is a spill during transport unless it is a catastrophic event. People are even in denial over the fact that there is global warming despite numerous studies to the contrary.

But as we try to move away from fossil fuels, we have not found yet found a perfect solution. We already know about the problems with storing the byproducts of waste from nuclear power plants. And then there is the threat of explosions. Something as seemingly harmless as a wind turbinehasan impact on the environment. Birds are killed when they fly too close to the blades. The noise is not only undesirable to humans (and can actually cause headaches, insomnia, and other problems), but it drives animals out of the area, too. Solar power isn’t very efficient at the moment, and they are also incredibly expensive to make. And, unfortunately, if the panels are damaged or as technological advances make changes in the way they are made, outdated solar panels are incredibly difficult—if not downright impossible—to recycle, so they end up in landfills. Biomass energy is another great alternative, but the amount of vegetation we would have to plant in order for it to become anything other than an alternative power source is prohibitive, plus the constant use would eventually strip the soil of nutrients. Nothing would be able to grow there again. It would also be costly to ship biomass material to urban areas, which would take many trucks using diesel fuels. And other than the occasional vegetable oil powered vehicle, we can’t really use any of these sources to drive a car, so they haven’t solved one of our most basic problems.

There’s also ethanol, which we actually can use in our cars. It hasn’t worked out as well as we’d hoped. First off, it has only ever been an additive, and only 10% at that, which hasn’t done much to combat either pollution or petroleum consumption. Second, converting fields and growing practices have damaged soil and actually caused more carbon consumption. Electric cars still need to be charged, so they are still on the power grid. Parts can be costly to make, difficult to recycle, and can be an electrical hazard in an accident (much the way fire can be a hazard in gas powered vehicle accident). Same with hybrid car batteries, and those also need gas to run. I am not saying that gas powered vehicles are safer or better for the environment, I am just saying that everything comes with a trade-off.These methods are great, but they aren’t perfect.

But all of these drawbacks don’t mean that we should stop trying. They just mean that we aren’t quite there yet. We need to keep going. We need to find ways to mitigate the current problems with our energy sources while looking for new sources as well. We’ll only get there if we all work together to come up with better solutions to this energy crisis.