Has Energy Wastage Really Decreased Over the Years?

Over the years technological advancements have been made with the hopes of making individuals lives easier. However, there have also been several advancements made with the hopes of helping reduce the energy wastage. The problem is that as technology advances, the price of technology increases, and the idea of trying to conserve energy becomes less appealing. According to a report in 2005, commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 38.9% of the total energy consumption in 2005 in the US. In 2005, 53.7% of the total is used by residential buildings, while the remaining 46.3% is used by commercial buildings. The US has always been the larges consumer of energy, which also leads it to be the largest contributor to energy wastage. If you look at the Figure 1 below, you can clearly see that the US uses more energy than any other country.

Figure 1.

Enerrgy-use-PerCapita

You may ask yourself why the US uses so much energy, especially when we have a smaller population that other countries. There are many reasons, but one reason is because we are the worlds leader in oil consumption, consuming up to 25% of the total oil consumption. If you look at Figure 2 you can see that not only has there has been an increase in oil consumption in the US, but also around the world.

Figure 2.

world-oil-consumption-001

Now, lets take a closer look at the US. In the United States, a majority of the energy consumption that occurs in building happens in residential buildings, such as homes and apartments. While this may make sense, it also makes it harder to fix. There are more homeowners than commercial business owners, therefore making commercial building energy efficient seems like it is an easier task. More specifically, 51% of the electricity consumed in the US occurs in residential buildings and 74.4% of the total water consumption is used by homeowners in their homes. Water consumption has doubled over a span of 50 years, from 1950 to 2000, causing the average person to use about 100 gallons of water everyday. Furthermore, 4 billion dollars is spent every year in the United States to provide energy to run drinking water and wastewater utilities. By using better efficiency equipment, we can reduce up to 10% of the cost, which is equivalent to 400 million dollars.

Going Back to what I had mentioned before, the reason that energy efficient technology is not used that often is because the price of buying energy efficient equipment is a lot more expensive. However, something that many people don’t understand is that in the long term the investment will help because it will actually help you save money.

A perfect example of this occurred in Four Seasons Resort in Maui. The resort began to make advancements in their technology which costed up to $8 million dollars, however once all of the advancements are done, the resort will save over $1 million. In the long run, not only will they gain their $8 million, but they will save much more than that.

So has Energy wastage changed over the years? In my opinion, I think that energy wastage will decrease, if it hasn’t already because of people who want to make advancements so they don’t waste $94,000 because of a leak.

Knowledge is Power!

Algal blooms and consequential dead zones are a problem plaguing the globe. In order to understand what algal blooms and dead zones are, and the impact they have on the environment, you have to understand the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

Algal blooms are caused because of human disruptions in the nitrogen or phosphorus cycle. Nitrogen and phosphorus are two of the main chemical elements of earth. The nitrogen and phosphorus cycles are biochemical cycles; biochemical cycles are simply cycles in which matter moves through out the earth.   An algal bloom is a rapid increase in the amount of algae in an aquatic environment. These blooms often occur because excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus enter the aquatic environment, and stimulate the increased growth of algae. (Science Daily)

Nitrogen and phosphorus are naturally occurring elements but they become overabundant from nutrient pollution. An example of nutrient pollution is runoff from farms using fertilizer containing a large amount of fixed nitrogen or phosphorus. Nitrogen fixation is the first step in the nitrogen cycle; it is the process by which nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere is converted into nitrate or ammonia. In the form of ammonia or nitrate nitrogen can be used in fertilizer to stimulate the growth of producers.  Phosphorus is more readily dissolved by soil than by water, so even a small amount of phosphorus within fertilizer runoff can stimulate growth of producers. Nitrogen and phosphorus may be helpful as fertilizers, but they can deadly when entering an aquatic environment. Nutrient pollution can occur in different ways, but the end result is always the sane, an abundant amount of nitrogen or phosphorus stimulating the growth of algae, creating an algal bloom. The abundance of algae in the aquatic environment turns the water green or red, (Figure 1 illustrates this). (National Geographic)

Figure 1

algae-blooms-in-lakes-may-be-new-normal-aerial-boat_66470_600x450

What is a dead zone and how does an algal bloom create it? Well, once the algae produced in the algae bloom dies, it sinks to the bottom, and bacterium decomposes the algae through cellular respiration. The bacteria takes in dissolved oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and chemical energy. The excess amount of decomposition decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen, creating hypoxic zones, areas with low amounts of oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes mass amounts of organisms requiring oxygen to die, or find new habitats, leaving an aquatic wasteland: also known as a dead zone.Now that you have an understanding of what algal blooms and dead zones are, and why they occur, it’s important to understand their significant impact on the environment. In 2007, an algal bloom in China’s Lake Taihu, the third largest lake in the country left 2 million people without water. “Overnight the city had no drinking water… what happened is folks woke up in the morning to make tea and found green Jello-like stuff coming out of the faucet. “ said Hans Pearl, a professor of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (Circle of Blue) Figure two shows an image of Lake Taihu:

Figure 2

China_Algae_JGanter_MG_3555-1000

Depriving an entire population of drinking water is a clear indication that something needs to be done in order to combat the nutrient pollution entering aquatic environments. Nonetheless, if you need something closer to home, in August, “a toxic bloom shut down the water supply system in Toledo Ohio. Since 2004 blooms of toxic algae shut down water supplies for more than 3 million people on three continents and have closed hundreds of inland lakes to recreation.” (Circle of Blue)

So, what should be done?

State legislation needs to be passed in order to allow government to regulate the amount of waste entering aquatic environments. But, because of the lack of political urgency in which this issue is viewed, nothing is being done. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo articulates my view on the issue perfectly when she says, “We need regulations on seatbelts for cars to save lives, and on air pollution to shut down acid rain. So why would we not do this for the most fundamental, basic need of water?” ( Circle of Blue)

The only way to combat this issue is through limiting the use of fertilizers rich with nitrogen and phosphorus. Legislation passing laws limiting the use of such materials must enforce this. I think right now attention needs to be called to this issue; the people need to be informed of the environmental impact of algal blooms. If the people rally for it, politicians have no choice but to legislate. In this situation, knowledge is power!