Coal Energy: Bane or Boon?

Mpumalanga, a province located in the east of South Africa, is the home to eleven coal-fired power stations owned by Eskom, a South African electricity public utility. Katerina lives in Witbank, a small town in Mpumalanga. Like many other people who live in her neighborhood, she has to worry about the air pollution brought by coal mining around her house. Dust is the major problem for her – the water that they have access to is full of dust and her son’s chest is also filled with dust. A study of air quality in Witbank by a team of scientists from the European Union suggests that Witbank’s air is the world’s dirtiest. Figure 1 is a diagram of current coal and air situation in Mpumalanga.

Figure 1: Coal Mining in Mpumalanga

Figure 1: Coal Mining in Mpumalanga

Almost all the disadvantages of coal can be seen in this area. Not only can coal mining be harmful to human health, but also can cause death. A report by Eskom shows that air pollution caused by its coal mining is killing more than 20 people annually. The coal mining is destroying both animal habitats and human communities. The worst impact of coal in this area is that 37 million tons of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere by the Kusile power plant, which contributes to climate change.

During my research for the past week, it bothered me to see that the coal is still largely used as a main energy resource in the world, even in the United States. So do people not care about the damages that coal can possibly make? Or does coal just have too many advantages to be replaced?

Figure 2: Everything You Needed To Know About That Lump Of Coal In Your Christmas-Stocking

Figure 2: Everything You Needed To Know About That Lump Of Coal In Your Christmas-Stocking

Figure 2 shows things that one needs to know about coal. Indeed, there are many advantages of coal. First of all, it is a very cheap energy source compared to others. Price of coal from many places is very affordable. It also does not cost too much to build power plants that use coal as a major source. Second, coal is ubiquitous. Coal can be found in many different parts of the world. The three major countries that are abundant in coal are the United State, China and India. The abundance of coal also enables people to build power plants wherever coalmine is. Third, it is a relatively reliable source. The energy based on coal can be produced continuously while other renewable energy like solar and wind is not quite stable.

If we cannot find another energy source to replace coal, what can we do? The most important thing is definitely to improve efficiency level of coal use. According to World Coal Association, 1% improvement of efficiency of a coal-fired plant can result in 2-3% reduction of CO2 emission. Sadly, the efficiency of the most efficient coal-fired plants is only 45% while the global average is 33%. I believe that developing a more efficient coal-fired plant is urgent considering the damages that coal is making to our planet. While we care about our energy source, it is also necessary for us to think of the way that we are using energy in daily life. Therefore, educating people how to efficiently use energy is so important and it is the ultimate goal of my team’s energy challenge project.

How Much Do We Know About Fracking?

Many people have heard of fracking and the controversy that surrounds it, but few know what it actually means, or what the environmental cost is. Fracking is a word that has a lot of politics behind it, and triggers a lot of immediate reactions, but many people do not even understand what it is.

Natural gas is a nonrenewable fossil fuel, but burns cleaner than coal or petroleum. Natural gas is used in many domestic and commercial applications. It is composed of simple hydrocarbons, mostly made up of methane. It is traditionally mined from gas fields using wells, but a large amount of gas trapped in shale formations cannot be mined in this way. Fracking allows that gas to be mined. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, works by injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and proppant (solid material used to keep fractures open) into the shale, causing the shale to fracture and release the gas.

Fracking is a new way of mining natural gas, and there has been little time to see what long term negative effects it has on the environment. There are several specific concerns about fracking’s environmental impact. Fracking uses an estimated 70 to 140 billion gallons of water each year. This raises concerns about the impact on drinking water resources and the effect on aquatic ecosystems. Proppant used in the fracking, usually silicone based sand, needs to be mined, and can contaminate groundwater. Various chemicals are also added to the fracking fluid, some of which have very serious health consequences. Pollution from the fracking fluid can seep into drinking water reserves and aquatic ecosystems, threatening both natural and human health. The concerns about fracking are not just theoretical. There are multiple examples of spills like this occurring. In addition to the spills, there is a worrying lack of accountability, with gas companies failing to report the spills to the government.

Natural gas may be the cleanest burning fossil fuel, but if mining for it involves fracking, the trade offs may not be worth it. We still do not know the full potential to cause damage to the environment that fracking has, but that has not stopped numerous companies from setting up fracking sites. There over 2 million hydraulically fractured wells in the U.S., and around 95% of new sites use the procedure. To continue this trend of using technology without any consideration for its environmental impact is irresponsible and near-sighted.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/natural-gas.html

http://www.csg.org/pubs/capitolideas/May_June_2012/fracking101.aspx

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/The-Problem/fracking/

From Wind to Walking: New Innovative Ways to Harness Energy

Change is all around if you look for it. Today, it seems to the regular citizen that energy innovation has been at a standstill, with the fossil fuels coal, petroleum, and natural gas still making up 81% of the world’s resources used to create energy, and 84% of the United States’.

The World’s Energy Usage by Resource

The USA's Energy Usage by Resource

The USA’s Energy Usage by Resource

Though one may know that solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources are much more efficient, they are still not yet commonly found in the general neighborhood. Upon reviewing the NRDC’s Renewable Energy for America Map , I observed that though the United states has much potential for using renewable energy resources, there is a notable deficiency. Only roughly 70% of the country uses wind turbine facilities, along with less than 50% using solar energy. There are many factors that influence this shortage, such as cost, convenience, and appearance.

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But do not fear, environmentally conscious citizen! There are most certainly plans for a greener future. This same map shows planned growth of amount of facilities. And expanding, bright minds are looking to go beyond just photovoltaic solar panels and towering wind turbines. Just as we students are trying to lessen our school’s environmental impact, intelligent minds around the world are creating fascinating innovations, that, if they are to succeed, will vastly lessen the energy impact of not just the United States, but the world.

There are few things that a typical person can say that they do each and every day. There’s our routine, whether it be going to school, brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast. But there’s also the innate: breathing, blinking, and walking. Walking holds kinetic energy that begs to be harvested, and a researcher by the name of Laurence Kemball-Cook has found a way to do just that. People walk up to 150 million footsteps in their lifetime, and he and his company Pavegen have found a way to turn these steps into electricity. Tiles, created from organic materials and easy to install, are planted into the floor. To harness the energy of a footfall, they have a slight, unnoticable give when stepped on. These steps can generate up to 7 watts of energy!

Pavegen works best in places with lots of consistent movement: schools, train stations, and  recently, soccer stadiums. The company has just created a stadium fitted with Pavegen tiles that can fully power itself. This is a major innovation, as it is situated in Brazil, a location where there can be frequent blackouts. However, there are even more ways to harvest energy with only movement. A short time ago, EPGL medical created a contact lense powered by blinking. This power is then used to give medical or any other information to the user.

I believe that these innovations, especially that of Pavegen, will be soon implemented into the world around us. The tiles are cheap, easy, and effective. I certainly hope that they come over from their birthplace in the UK and surrounding regions into the USA, as they have the potential for one small step from a man to one day power the energy for mankind.

Wind energy is another renewable resource with major potential. In a prime wind-filled location, it can generate much power with little environmental detriment. But with positives come negatives. Wind turbines are generally disliked by the general citizen, as they can be an eyesore on the landscape. Rolling treeless hills may be a windy location, but if there are surrounding properties and homes, these people are often not pleased when their view is scarred by technology.

Another problem comes from efficiency. Wind turbines are not active one hundred percent of the time, as it is not windy at all hours. Trying to attack these problems, Altaeros Energies in Boston is working to change the ways we harness wind energy forever. They have created the “BAT”, a sort of balloon turbine that floats up to one thousand to two thousand feet in the air.

This turbine can utilize eight times as much energy as ones on the ground, using stronger, more consistent high altitude winds. They wouldn’t be deployed in heavily populated areas, therefore reducing human and wildlife impact, but instead rural communities, off grid companies, and areas of disaster relief. They would be less noticeable the their counterpart, as well as more cost effective. This is a huge jump in the development of wind harnessing technologies. One can only wait to see if this method spreads, as it definitely seems like a breakthrough in the way that humans can gather their energy.

The future of renewable resources is bright. Every day scientists are working furiously to improve and enhance the ways that we get our energy. Whether it be by wind or humans themselves, power can be found anywhere, if one is willing to look for it. Hopefully, as the world turns greener, one day you’ll be able to stride across Pavegen tiles and squint to see a far off BAT on the horizon.

If you’d like some further information about Pavegen, here’s a Ted Talk: http://vimeo.com/44078683

The Mt. Abram Ski Lodge and its Progressive Strides Towards Energy Efficiency

In this age of environmental panic, it is always refreshing to read about organizations that are actually making a proactive effort to rely less on non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels, which cannot be reused and take billions of years to form, and rely more on renewable energy sources such as solar energy, which replenishes rapidly and is readily available because it comes from sunlight. Mt. Abram, a ski area in Maine, is not only the world’s largest snow-making site, but is also the second largest solar ski area in the country and gets 70% of its energy from the sun. (http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/01/12/investing-in-the-future-of-maines-great-outdoors-with-renewable-energy/)

Solar panels rely on the photoelectric effect, or the ability of matter to emit electrons in response to light, to convert sunlight into electricity. In order to fully understand how the photoelectric effect works, one must first understand photons, electrons, solar cells, and kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy that a substance carries by virtue of its movement and location. A rock falling from a cliff has more kinetic energy than a rock sitting still. Photons are the tiny particles that make up sunlight and they carry kinetic energy because they move at the speed of light. Solar cells are what make up solar panels and they consist of two different types of silicon; n-type, which has spare electrons, and p-type, which is missing electrons. When a photon reaches the semi-conductive silicon surface of a solar cell, it transfers its potential energy to loose electrons and knocks them off the silicon atoms. The loose electrons then diffuse to the p-type silicon where electrons are missing and create a negative charge on that side of the solar cell (electrons are negatively charged), while the n-type silicon becomes positively charged. This imbalance creates an electric current across the solar cell. The silicon maintains this electricity by acting as an insulator (remember silicon is semi-conductive). The electricity stored in these solar cells can be used to power cars, satellites, calculators, houses, ski areas, and everything in between.

Figure 1: Diagram of a solar cell (etap.com)

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Mt. Abram also uses the energy generated from burning wood pellets to heat its lodge. While it is not as renewable as solar energy, wood can be a relatively sustainable energy source if trees are replanted frequently enough. Attracting over 40,000 skiers each winter, the Mt. Abram ski lodge is a pioneer in the fight to sever our dependance on nonrenewable energy sources and shows that it is possible to run a successful business that relies on renewable energy.

SOURCES:

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In this day and age, a lot of our electronic devices are wirelessly connected. I need many of these gadgets around me to get through my day, like my laptop or phone to check my schedule and email, the printer to do my homework, or my Playstation to enjoy myself, and these things probably aren’t uncommon in other households. But what these electronics around us have in common is a network connectivity that carries out their function. And that perpetual connection is a problem for energy costs.

In 2013, approximately $80 billion was wasted on power for online devices. But wait, what’s so special about online devices? Why aren’t our desk-lamps or calculators part of the problem? Well, devices that use a wireless connection are in “standby mode” when we are not using them, and the wording of “standby mode” does seem to imply that the device is completely inactive and using minimal power. But even though they may not be in use, they still maintain network connection in standby mode and continue to draw power to do so. As of 2013, 600 Terawatts (1 Kilowatt=103 watts; 1 Terawatt=1012 watts) were drawn from online devices. And to produce what? Nothing. What a waste.

Unfortunately, the problem seems likely to exacerbate. Figure 1 shows the past and projected growth of global Internet traffic and clearly, more people seem to become increasingly dependent on the Internet. Additionally, figure 2 shows the projected sales of networked devices. It isn’t hard to see that the energy demand will skyrocket in order to power those networked devices. Are we going to have to go through the trouble of satisfying their standby mode hunger too?

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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The International Energy Agency is addressing policy makers, software designers, or service providers to cut this 600 TWt waste, but the issue nagged me as I read an article about a plausible futuristic fantasy called the “Internet of Things”. Imagine everything, and I mean everything including trees, lampposts and other everyday entities, being wirelessly connected. Agricultural conditions can be perpetually tracked, traffic better regulated, and communication more immediate than ever; the ideas are endless! But of course, there’s a catch: the energy to back that connectivity is colossal. How can we expect to be energy efficient and advance ourselves in network connectivity when our current connectivity is having energy issues? All I could think at the end of the Internet of Things article was, “We might have to wait a little bit longer.”

Traditional Solution Turns Into Unique Energy Storage Technique

Ever since electricity was discovered, people have been working hard to find efficient ways to store energy. Today, there are many technological approaches to manage power supply to create a more resilient energy infrastructure including solid state batteries, flow batteries, flywheels, compressed air energy storage, thermal and pumped hydro-power. Still, many scientists are looking for more efficient ways to store energy.

Hoping to find safe, sustainable and cost-effective energy storage systems, Professor Jay Whitacre, the founder of Aquino Energy, found a solution based on an ancient technology: saltwater batteries. After years of hard work, Aquino Energy developed a unique technology named Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) Chemistry.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

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Figure 4

Figure 1 illustrates the discharge process of an AHI battery. This figure also clearly represents the inner parts of an AHI battery. What differentiates AHI batteries from others is their aqueous electrolyte made up by Sodium Sulfate solution, which enables the functional ions, including sodium, lithium, and hydrogen ions, to flow better. The battery’s anode (negative electrode) is made up with carbon, which has a high surface when activated. Therefore, the ions will attach to the surface of carbon while battery is charged and make the surface negatively charged. The cathode (positive electrode) is made up with Manganese Oxide, which allows “intercalation” reaction happen during discharge. This reaction is less corrosive and more enduring compared to electrode surface reactions that are commonly seen in other batteries. Figure 2 provides a more detailed diagram of the interaction between the two electrodes. There is also a cotton separator, which separates the electrodes in order to prevent a short circuit. Figure 3 is a diagram with internal features of an AHI battery unit. Each unit holds multiple sets of electrodes that are connected electronically in parallel. All these features make AHI batteries have excellent performance. Figure 4 is a graph of AHI batteries’ cycle life. With this unique technology, Aquino Energy developed products including S-Line Battery Stacks, M-Line Battery Modules and Bulk Energy Storage, which can be applied in different places.

When I think of batteries, it is inevitable to think about most batteries’ short durations and the damages that they could cause to the environment. It is amazing to see that today’s scientist always consider environment when they make new inventions. I believe more environment-friendly techniques for energy storage will be discovered in the future.

Energy Production Gone Wrong… Surprised?

March 11, 2011, a major earthquake, followed by a 15-meter tsunami, destroyed the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactors, causing a nuclear catastrophe. The plants at Fukushima were Boiling Water Reactors (BWR, shown in Figure 1.). A BWR produces electricity by boiling water with nuclear fuel and uses the steam from the water to drive a turbine, which creates electricity. The steam then is cooled and condenses back into water until it is heated by nuclear fuel again. The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide, a radioactive mineral.

Figure 1: Model of a Boiling Water Reactor used at Fukushima.

Figure 1: Model of a Boiling Water Reactor used at Fukushima.

The devastation from Fukushima released unmanageable amounts of radiation, and about 80% of the radiation is still being released into the Pacific Ocean through ground water. Yet, why is this relevant to us? 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean every day, and it has started to affect the United States. According to the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, radiation levels all over the U.S. are elevating, specifically the west coast. (Shown in Figure 2.). The total amount of radioactive material from Fukushima is increasing everyday in the U.S., and it is steadily building up in our food chain, which could cause radiation poisoning in innocent civilians all over America.

Figure 2.  Caution Symbols Key: Yellow/Green = Normal levels of Radiation Yellow/Black = Rising levels of Radiation Yellow/Red = Elevated levels of Radiation Black/Red = Concern/Watch levels of Radiation

Figure 2.
Caution Symbols Key:
Yellow/Green = Normal levels of Radiation
Yellow/Black = Rising levels of Radiation
Yellow/Red = Elevated levels of Radiation
Black/Red = Concern/Watch levels of Radiation

With an increase of radioactive material in our food chain, people will have a high risk of developing cancer or other health problems due to the high exposure of nuclear radiation. These possible risks are already being foreshadowed by the effects the nuclear radiation is having on the ecosystems along the west coast. On the Alaskan coastline, polar bears, seals, and walruses are beginning to suffer from alopecia (loss of fur) and skin lesions, and along the California coastline there has been a tragic amount of sea-lion deaths. For example, 45% of the pups born during the summer have died, when usually pup deaths are below 33%. Also, many types of fish are being affected by the radiation. Along the Canada and Alaska coastlines, the population of sockeye salmon is at a “historic low.” Along the west coast of Canada, fish are suddenly bleeding from their gills, bellies, and eyeballs, and the cause is predicted to be nuclear radiation. A test in California found that 15 out of 15 Bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima and plankton found in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the West Coast had very high levels of cesium-137 (radioactive metal). With these cases of death, disease, and illness within the ecosystems of the west coast of North America, soon enough, nuclear radiation may begin to affect innocent people.

It is a terrifying thought how the production of energy can cause such devastation. In fact, it is ironic   how the nuclear plants, which hurt the environment, have been destroyed by the environment (natural disasters), and in result will affect us, the people whom are using the energy. Fukushima is an example of how energy production cannot only directly affect the environment, but also can directly affect the health of humans. How can we prevent this is the future? We can produce energy with safer and more renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, a simple, yet expensive method. Although using more efficient energy sources can raise the bills, when it comes down to it, what is more important, health or money?

Energiwende

Since the 1970’s Germany has tried to be a leader in the global energy transition. With an economy that is ranked fifth in the world and with one of the largest populations in the world, becoming a leader does not seem that hard. In 2010 the German government published a document that outlined the main components of Energiewende(energy transition). The document stated, “ by 2025, Germany aims to produce 40%-45% of its electricity from renewable sources, rising to at least 80% by 2050.” The government hopes to achieve these goals by reducing the number of fossil fuels, transitioning energy usage to renewable energy such as wind and solar. Since the beginning of the project Germany has succeeded thus far in achieving its goals.OG-AC406_ENERGI_G_20140826190004

However since 2011, when the German government passed the bill for Energiewende to begin, more and more local and international companies have casted their doubts on the project. The major concern for many of the local and international companies is the rising costs in energy. The locals fear that Germany will lose its competitiveness as one of the leading economic countries. The projects itself would cost about $1.4 trillion which is almost half of Germany’s GDP. Internationally the fear is that the cost of energy is too much and money will be lost. What have international companies done to express their concerns? What does the government promise to do?

Many international companies and a few local companies have reduced their investments in Germany because of the high energy costs. BASF which has one of its main plants located in Germany has decided to cut investments to just 1/4th of its 20 billion euros global investment over the course of the next five years. This is a significant reduction because BASF used to invest ⅓ of its global investments in its German plant. Now BASF is going to invest the extra money in its Asian and American plants. Local company SGL Carbon decided to invest $200 million to its plant in Washington instead of investing the usual $100 million in its home base in Germany. Thus far, the only international companies that have benefited are those who install devices that create renewable energy.

Although there are many concerns the federal government of Germany has continued to push the project due to its numerous benefits. The government claims the country will be a leader in green technology and that in the future the economy will reap in the benefits of renewable energy. The government also claims that the energy costs will decrease as soon as the renewable infrastructure is complete.

I wonder though if the government is thinking of the now. How does the government not realize that it’s spending most of its money on energy. Does the government not realize that many people are going to lose jobs?

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How much money Germany is spending in Euro’s on energy.

So I ask, What should Germany do? Should America follow Germany’s movement?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/germanys-expensive-gamble-on-renewable-energy-1409106602

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gm.html

LEEDing the Way to a Greener World

I stumbled upon LEED while working on the Energy Challenge project in our Environmental Science class. While discussing ways to make buildings, such as our own school, more energy efficient, a classmate brought up the concept of LEED. She mentioned how a school down the street had become “LEED-certified,” making their newly built dorms incredibly environmentally friendly. At first I was puzzled. Based on this explanation, I thought of LEED as just a label, directly meaning clean and energy efficient. But after delving into some research, I discovered that it’s more than that. LEED is a carefully crafted movement designed to inspire businesses, schools, and others to “save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy”.

Figure 1: This colorful and eye-catching LEED logo is one of the many ways that the USGBC is attracting businesses, schools, and others to become more energy efficient.

Figure 1: This colorful and eye-catching LEED logo is one of the many ways that the USGBC is attracting businesses, schools, and others to become more energy efficient.

So what is LEED, actually? LEED, standing for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is an offset of the U. S. Green Building Council. This council was created in 1993 with a mission: to “promote sustainability in the building and construction industry”. And as this committee expanded, the purpose did too, as seven years later, the USGBC created a prestigious certification system to promote environmentally friendly buildings called LEED. LEED, most basically, is a point based rating system. As structures are being created, specific elements are given points for the design of the building itself, the building materials used, and the construction process. Examples of factors that are examined include “the energy envelope, the lighting, the daylighting, choosing non-toxic building materials, using recycled materials, protecting the landscape, plants, water collection and use“. Those who get the most points receive the greenest certification, the platinum award. In descending order, the next best awards include gold, silver, and simplify certified.

Figure 2

So why is LEED important? Having an energy efficient building is more than getting a shiny medal to put on you front desk, is it not? Well, yes, and no. There are cons to this procedure, and as always when combatting energy overuse is cost. First, registration is $1,200. Then, certification fees start at $2,750, but it only goes up from there. After my group for the Energy Challenge and I discussed St. Mark’s in relation to LEED with Mr. Warren, our headmaster, we discovered that large additions, renovations, and new building certifications can cost upwards of $20,000. St. Mark’s, while creating the new center, chose to adhere to LEED specifications but not become officially certified, believing that the money would be better spent elsewhere. As a student, this logic is virtually irrefutable. But as a business, there are major benefits to becoming LEED certified. The first would be the press. Corporations, schools, and homes may seem more desirable if they are more energy efficient, green and environmentally friendly. Secondly, in the long term, they are cheaper to sustain. As quoted from the USGBC website, “LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water bills by as much as 40%,”. And people are not shying away. Just this week, Mission College of Santa Clara, California earned a gold certification for it’s new Wilmor center’s features such as a “geothermal system that uses the ground as its heating and cooling agent and solar panels, which will help offset one-third of the building’s power consumption,” as well as “water-efficient landscaping, use of certified wood, efficient lighting controls and use of low-emitting materials“. Office buildings in New York City have set goals to have more green features, and just this past summer 8 West 44th Street received a gold certification. And it’s not just the United States that is part of this movement. Looking at figure 3 below, one can observe that countries around the world have become home to LEED certified buildings. With each day, the world takes a step towards becoming a greener place. Though there are both pros and cons to this LEED, I believe that if more people were to follow their guidelines, there would be major improvements efficiency wise. Though progress will certainly not be immediate, I am sure that LEED is leading the world to become a more environmentally place.

Figure 3: An infographic detailing the spread of LEED throughout the world, and it’s magnitude.

Strides Towards an Energy Efficient World

Energy efficiency is, at its roots, the concept of using and wasting less energy. Many of the most pressing threats to our everyday lives are the results of our (meaning humans) failure to achieve energy efficiency. Of these threats are global warming, diminishing resources, economic turmoil, illness-causing air pollution, reliance on fossil fuel, etc. Examples of energy efficient energy sources include solar energy, wind, and water. Harry Verhaar, head of global and public affairs at Philips Lighting and chairman of the European Alliance to Save Energy, gives a very refreshing and inspiring take on energy efficiency that we should all try to adopt. “Its logical,” he says, “because we simply waste too much. Some people call energy efficiency low-hanging fruit. I would even say energy efficiency is fruit lying on the ground. We only need to bend over and pick it up.” The successful implementation of energy efficiency would ultimately benefit the global community in practically every way possible. Climate change would ease up, our huge rates of pollution would decrease, and our reliance on unsustainable resources such oil, coal, and fossil fuels would be reduced. From an economic aspect, scads of jobs would become readily available in fields such as building upgrades, energy-efficient vehicle manufacturing, and the engineering of energy efficient everyday appliances such as lightbulbs, stoves, houses, etc. Not to mention, the massive weight of an impending economic collapse due to diminishing resources would be lifted from our shoulders. As can be seen in Figure 1 below, we are only decades away from reaching our absolute maximum rate of unsustainable energy usage until we are bound by the law of limitation to cut back.

Figure 1 (http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-Fossil_fuels_global_production)

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Despite the simplicity of Mr. Verhaar’s fruit analogy, there are many difficult complications that arise from making strides towards energy efficiency. Cultural inertia is a term used to describe the concept that humans are so incredibly adapted to their reliance on coal, oil, and fossil fuel that the sudden transition to using only energy efficient resources would cost unfathomable amounts of money and would bring some of the most influential companies in the world crashing to the ground. Other complications are public skepticism and financial constraints. Quite simply, nobody is sure enough that the transition to energy efficient resources will be worth the massive funding that it requires. Overcoming these hindrances will be far from easy but, whether, gradually or suddenly, we must eventually sever our reliance on unsustainable resources if we want our planet to survive.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/business/energy-environment/energy-efficiency-may-be-the-key-to-saving-trillions.html?_r=0

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/taking-the-risk-out-of-energy-efficiency

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/geography/energy_resources/energy_rev1.shtml

http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-Fossil_fuels_global_production