As humans, we have been creating new ways to live since the beginning of time. We’ve evolved from using stone, to using metal. From walking, to flying. From working with our hands, to having machines do everything for us. Our creative side can come with a price though. With each creation we are consuming more and more. Have you ever stopped to think about just how much we consume? We have multiple ways of using energy but yet we also face many challenges of it as well. To understand how much we use, we must first look at what types energy there are, and how we are using that energy to our advantage.
Energy can come in all forms. Some are man-made, and others are given to us by the very earth we live on. There are ones that are much more environmentally friendly than the others. Hopefully in the near future we can start being more self-aware, and be more educated on the ones that are good, and the ones that are bad for us. Although, we may not have a choice on what we can use soon in the near future. Here are some of the different types of energy. Mechanical, Thermal, Nuclear, Chemical, Electromagnetic, Sonic, Gravitational, Kinetic, Potential, and Ionization.
Energy is measured in multiple different ways depending on the type of energy you are using. For example, electricity is measured in wattage, heat is measured in thermal, and food energy is measured in calories. “66% of Canadas electricity comes from renewable sources and 81% of from non-GHG (Green House Gases) emitting sources.” (Natural Resources Canada, 2018) However, using resources such as coal, natural gas, oil, can cause GHG. “Between 2000 and 2016, Canada’s GHG emissions decreased by 4%, GHG emissions decreased 23% per dollar of GDP and 18% per capita” (Natural Resources Canada, 2018). If you would like to see some interesting facts about energy consumption, you can check out this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEYkoaRSz0k
One of the problems we face with energy is the ever growing population and how much is being used. With more and more people needing homes, food, jobs, we seem to be using the limited resources we have. Fossil fuels, and nuclear fuels are some of the leading uses of energy in the world. Almost all transportation uses gas as an energy source. (Global Energy Network Institute, 2016)
Walking around congested cities or rural areas, we can literally recognize the direction of our renewable energy plan. We are turning up our energy needs yet trying to find ways to turn down our planetary pollution for the future of us and our planet. We are a society that has a high demand while not thinking about where the supply is coming from. Just 10 years ago, we could ask people where electricity comes from, we would have gotten some surprising responses. Nowadays we can literally identify where our Renewable Energy sources are actually coming from. Just by simply looking around our communities from solar panels on roof tops to fields full of wind turbines. We can visualize how wind is being consumed as a renewable energy source. Taking wind from our planet and producing electricity proves how far we are coming and how far we are willing to go. “Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity.” (How do Wind Turbines Work?, energy.gov, 2017).
Another renewable source which would have seemed sci-fi is taking the energy from solar ray’s and turn it into electricity. China has really showed a commitment in “being the largest solar market in the world, and has installed capacity of around 130 GW, far greater than the U.S. at around 60 GW, and Japan’s roughly 46 GW.” (Jill Baker, Solar leading China Is Slashing Its Subsidies on Solar Panels.2018). Around the world we see the transition to renewable energy looking at the “biggest running on water- solar panels project in China”(Jill Baker, Solar leading China Is Slashing Its Subsidies on Solar Panels.2018), to smaller projects we see on residential housing roofs all over cities and rural areas. “These Solar panels are interconnected assemblies of photovoltaic cells that collect solar energy as part of a solar power system, either on Earth or in space”. (Solar Panel design. Kte’ pi, Bill, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science, 2013. Paragraph.1). Once the electricity is converted within the “solar panel or array of connected solar panels produces direct current, like chemical batteries, which can be stored. An inverter can convert the direct current to alternating current for household use”. (Solar Panel design. Kte’ pi, Bill, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science, 2013). Although our pleasure with electricity and electronic automation continues to grow, the main point is the pollution must and will decline in our coming future. The only positive side of what we have done to our planet is we are shifting our production to new ways of obtaining energy without the effects of damaging our planet beyond what we have already done. We are fortunate to be heading into a future of understanding and using the renewable energy sources not only by means of our planet but also the rays from beyond.
Nuclear Energy is an alternative source of energy that looked quite promising when it was first discovered by scientists In Chicago during the Second World War in 1942 (altenergy.org, n.d.). Having underestimated the cost of production, environmental impact, and health risks, nuclear energy was brought forward to be used by electric companies around the world. At least, that was the intention since it was thought to be a cleaner and less expensive source of energy.
How It Works
The process of turning nuclear energy into electricity is achieved by releasing the energy in the extracted Uranium from the atom in a controlled manner. This is done using a nuclear reactor which controls the atoms that are being split, the process is known as fission. Thereby, releasing tiny particles called fission products. This causes a chain reaction, and creates heat. As the heat warms the water it creates steam, turning the turbines and generating electricity. National Geographic (2017, video).
Is It Really Pollution Free Energy?
One of the greatest benefits of using nuclear energy was that it would power an average American home for 34 years with just one kilogram of fuel, TED-Ed (2017, May), and would emit no greenhouse gasses. Over time it became clear that Nuclear Energy had higher costs than anticipated and posed a greater impact on the environment and life. Even though nuclear energy does not release carbon dioxide into the environment, the process of extracting Uranium, the construction of the power plants, and the enrichment of fuel does release high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby cancelling out one of the benefits. Pollution free energy!
The Price of Nuclear Energy
The astronomical costs associated with the construction of nuclear power plants was the reason the Levy Nuclear Power Plant in Florida had to cease construction. The estimated price in 2011 of 3.5 billion went up to 29 billion within five years of construction. So, by 2017 It was decided to halt the construction Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, June, p. 35-39). Once again it is seen that nuclear power is so costly that it cannot be afforded by everyone, especially developing countries.
There are also serious concerns when it comes to the safety and health of life on earth. Using nuclear energy produces 2200 tons of radioactive waste each year. Verge Science (2018). We are talking about waste that will stay active for 24,000 years Lambrick, M. (2017, Dec, p. 3), and can also be used to make atomic weapons. Therefore, States that use nuclear power have become targets of theft and terrorist attacks. There is still no solution for storing such dangerous and high radiation waste! “For now, the temporary storage pools get bigger, fill up, and new ones are built… But, if the cooling process ever fails because of terrorism, human error, war, asteroid strike, or some other catastrophe there would be a massive and lethal release of radiation” Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, p. 35-39). We have already seen what this can do, when in 1986 human error was to blame for the explosion caused in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine. Radioactive gasses were released and blown across Europe. The wind was able to drift these toxic gases all the way to Japan. This not only affected people, but countless forests and farmlands along with livestock. Many people died of illnesses caused by radiation exposure, and affected livestock were born with deformities. “In the event of an accident, leak, or faulty structure even low-level radiation can cause birth defects, cancer, immune system damage and genetic mutations” Lambrick, M. (2017 Dec p.3). Today the plant is still radioactive and “The area won’t be safe for human habitation for at least 20,000 years” (Live Science).
Another grave example occurred in Japan in 2011, when a strong earthquake in the Pacific Ocean triggered a tsunami 15 meters high. The impact of the tsunami on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant caused major damage to some of its reactors allowing radiation to escape into the atmosphere. Fortunately, nobody died in the accident and thousands were evacuated. However, the long-term effect of the radiation reached many, and by 2016 it was reported by The International Business Times there had been “116 cases of thyroid cancer in children…”. Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, June, p. 35-39). There is a 30 km area around the power plant that is contaminated due to high radiation levels and the owners of the power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company says “the clean up will take 30 to 40 years. However, that estimate is based on developing technology that doesn’t yet exist” Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, Jun p. 35-39). So far, nuclear energy’s risks seem to be significantly outweighing its benefits. It is sad that so many people have died due to the negligence of those responsible for bringing nuclear energy to the market when clearly it was not ready.
In Canada, nuclear energy is powered by its own reactor design called CANDU and has been in use since 1968. They “operate in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick” Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, June, p. 35-39), and provide 15 percent of Canada’s electricity production and 60 percent of Ontario’s electricity. That being said, operating these power plants have caused a great debt. It was calculated in 2015 by “Ontario’s Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk that On-tarians paid 37 billion more than market price for electricity from 2006 to 2014 and would pay another $133 billion extra by 2032” (Globe and Mail). Therefore, Ontario has made the decision to stop building more nuclear reactors. Canada & the World Backgrounder (2018, June p. 35-39).
Fortunately, there has not been any accidents involving nuclear power plants since Fukushima in 2011. However, to this date this source of energy has proven to be too costly and pose high risks on health and the environment. There is a great potential for nuclear energy , but until then the consequences have impacted us, and will live on for thousands of years into the next generations.
Transportation provides us with access to what people value and need to live their lives. Transportation is the most important global network that trades over $18 trillion worth in goods every year. Transportation also impacts our climate and is accounted for 23% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation can be broken into three main sections: mode, fuel type, and technology. Mode transportation is by air, land and sea. Fuel is the critical element that propels transportation. The primary fuel types are derived by human power, renewable fuels, and fossil fuels. Different fuels, and how they are consumed, have distinct impacts on the climate and our air quality. When petroleum products are burned in vehicle engines, they release energy, but they also release greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Technology refers to the type of propulsion mechanism used in a mode of transportation. Technologies vary greatly in efficiency. For example, an average gasoline fueled car is 25% efficient meaning that 75% of the fuel used does not go into propelling the vehicle but is lost as heat and other energy expenditures.
To improve the climate impact for this, it is important to consider possible different combinations of modes, fuels, and technology. Since transportation is such an important factor in global carbon emissions, governments and companies are increasingly looking into innovate with new modes, fuels and technologies.
Videos to check out:
References: Energy Consumption
Canada Newswire. (2017, October 26). New long-term energy outlook shows Canadian fossil fuel use peaking. Canada Newswire. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.mohawkcollege.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=mohawk&db=bwh&AN=201710260930CANADANWCANADAPR.C1132&site=eds-live&scope=site
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2018, August 22). Name 10 Types of Energy. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/main-energy-forms-and-examples-609254
Staff, Q. (2014, November 14). How Is Energy Measured?. In ww2.kqed.org. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2014/11/14/how-is-energy-measured-2/
Natural Resources Canada (2018, September 12). In http://www.nrcan.gc.ca. Retrieved from https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/facts/electricity/20068
Natural Resources Canada (2018, November 2). In http://www.nrcan.gc.ca. Retrieved from https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/facts/energy-ghgs/20063
International, E. (Narrator). (2014). Global Energy Consumption [Online video]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEYkoaRSz0k
Global Energy Network Institute. (2016, June 30). FAQ. In GENI. Retrieved from http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/faq/general/faq_I-am-concerned-about-global-energy-problems.shtml
References: Renewable Energy
How do Wind Turbines Work?, energy.gov- https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work
Jill Baker, Solar Leading China Is Slashing Its Subsidies on Solar Panels – What You Need to Know. Paragraph 2. June 18th 2018
Solar Panel design. Kte’ pi, Bill, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science, 2013. Paragraph.1
Photos: Renewable Energy
Figure 2: Wind Turbine: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work
Alternative Energy: Nuclear
Altenergy.org. (n.d.). Alternative Energy Solutions for the 21st Century. Retrieved Nov 10, 2018 from http://www.altenergy.org/nonrenewables/nuclear.html
Pros and Cons: Nuclear power does not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but it comes with a unique set of its own hazards. (2018). Canada & the World Backgrounder, 83(4), 35–39. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.mohawkcollege.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=mohawk&db=aph&AN=129893916&site=eds-live&scope=site
Lambrick, M. (2017). Counterpoint: Nuclear Energy is an Unnecessary Risk. Canadian Points of View: Nuclear Power, 3. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.mohawkcollege.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=mohawk&db=p3h&AN=28675024&lang=en-ca&site=pov-can&scope=site
Ramana, M. & Saini, S. (2017 May 8) How do nuclear power plants work? N.p.: TED-Ed. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7WPEYGr1Vs
Verge Science. (2018). 88,000 tons of radioactive waste – and no where to put it. N.p.: Author. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgVyPwhkoJs
What is Nuclear Energy? (Oct 12, 2017). In National Geographic. N.p.: National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta3z3pGK0vU&feature=youtu.be
Figure 1. Nuclear Power Plants retrieved from https://sciencestruck.com/uses-of-nuclear-energy
Figure 2. Nuclear Reactor retrieved from https://nuclear-energy.net/definitions/nuclear-power-plant.html
Figure 3. Fukushima Nuclear Explosion retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwk_53DEp44
Figure 4. Fukushima Aftermath retrieved from http://www.les7duquebec.com/7-dailleurs-2-2/fukushima-le-nombre-de-cancers-va-exploser-selon-des-ong/
Transportation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.studentenergy.org/topics/transportation
Figure 1. forms of transportation retrieved from:
Figure 2. Transportation. Retrieved from: