Alternate energy: Picking the best resource for America

Energy sums up the progress of a civilization. The world population is rising, and so is the demand for more energy. The current need is to fully develop the existing energy sources and research alternate energy sources.

It would be novice to suggest a complete switch to environmentally friendly energy sources from fossil fuels. Change takes time and advancement in technology, economic viability and public awareness — and to adapt to these changes will take decades.

Most energy companies have started developing emerging technologies in their own facilities. One of the advantages for these researches is earning carbon credits for lesser emissions, government subsidies and attracting willing investors. Chevron, Shell, BP and Exxon are some of the biggest players who believe alternative and renewable energy sources will play a role in meeting future energy demand.

The swapping of coal-fired plants to natural gas-powered plants is dynamically affecting the industry. According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, coal will continue to be the principle fuel source for America’s electrical generation — at least through 2030. This is primarily due to its abundant supply and low cost.

Renewable resources have been a favorable option for alternate energy sources for a long time. Wind and solar energy development have developed across many parts of the world. The economic feasibility for these technologies have been explored, and the trends of electricity generation from these sources have started overlapping traditional forms.

The average American prefers renewables and natural gas over oil and nuclear power. The top choice for Democrats and independents is solar power, while natural gas is preferred among Republicans; however, in the South, people have an inclination towards oil, nuclear and coal.

Preference is overruled when it comes to high costs. Unlike states like California and New York where electricity costs are way higher than the average price of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, the general public will be reluctant to pay high costs in any other state.

The American oil and gas producers saw a larger profit opportunity of arbitrage by exporting natural gas as liquefied natural gas in higher priced markets. These increased liquefied natural gas exports were expected to create a globally integrated market to use gas as a global commodity and erode off the regional pricing natural gas market.

The American domestic manufacturers are concerned that the prices of natural gas will go up if the natural gas market is globalized. It could cause them to lose the privilege of the low-energy cost advantage they are benefiting from presently.

When the shale boom caused a burgeoning natural gas supply, the manufacturers welcomed this surplus supply since it reduced their production costs and reduced their dependency on fossil fuels.

According to economists and analysts, the shale revolution may have substantial macroeconomic effects and aid America in many ways. Increase of shale production will raise gross domestic product, raise employment and lessen the U.S. current account deficit from more exports of liquefied natural gas.

President Barack Obama’s senior energy adviser said the natural gas and shale finds will break the dependence on oil imports. This energy security will lead to altering of U.S. priorities in foreign policy and render the U.S. to be less concerned with events in the Persian Gulf.

A recent classroom poll for energy markets students by president of Ariesone Dr. Reuven Hollo resulted in a majority voting for developing natural gas or liquefied natural gas as primary source to be developed and nuclear being the last.

It is the general public attitude which will take nuclear a good amount of time to gain mass acceptance. The three devastating nuclear plant incidents at the 1979 Three Mile Island in Pennsylavania, the 1986 Chernobyl in Ukraine and the 2011 Fukushima Daichii in Japan have significantly implanted a dread in the minds of people towards nuclear energy.

Often times, nuclear energy development is criticized by anti-nuclear groups over public radiation exposure and potential risks of nuclear proliferation.

The alternative energy sources need advancing technologies and adaptability since climate change is a big concern for the world today. Fossil fuel burning causes emissions of green house gases, and this increased level of green house gases is the main cause of global warming.

Replacing and retrofitting current technologies with alternatives that have comparable or better performance but do not emit green house gases is the best solution of all.

Opinion columnist Aishwarya Gogoi is a petroleum engineering graduate student and may be reached at [email protected]

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