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Nonrenewable vs. Renewable Energy Use
Energy is required to run households, industrial units, transport, and for the production of goods and services in their basic as well as advanced form. With respect to its potential of depletion and reproduction ability, energy is divided into two categories, non-renewable and renewable energy. Energy derived from non-renewable resources, those which cannot be reproduced or replenished to their original level is called the non-renewable energy. Consumption of non-renewable energy is unsustainable in the long run. Leading non-renewable resources are fossil and radioactive fuels. Fossil fuel includes resources such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas whereas radioactive fuel includes metal ores such as uranium ore to produce electricity (Mongillo, 2011). Predominantly, non-renewable energy is produced from fossil fuels.
Energy derived from resources that are continuously reproduced and replenished is called the renewable energy. Primary examples of renewable energy resources are sunlight, wind, geothermal heat, biomass, and tidal waves. Since renewable resources are not at risk of depletion, governments across the world are increasingly involved in shifting their energy use to renewable resources. A descriptive comparison between uses of non-renewable and renewable energy will be given in the next section followed by major contrasts in both categories of energy. The two sections will highlight the major differences, similarities, and peculiar characteristics of non-renewable and renewable energy use. The paper will conclude by evaluating major findings and future of energy use throughout the world.
Comparison of non-renewable and renewable energy use
Non-renewable energy is mainly used in all the manufacturing and production concerns of the world. It is also a major source of heating and cooking purposes domestically. Such vast is the consumption of non-renewable energy that governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have shown considerable interest to reverse or at least decrease the current rate of consuming fossil fuels. Major uses of non-renewable energy uses are as follows.
Non-renewable energy uses
Total petroleum consumption throughout the world during 2011 remained 176.568 quadrillion Btu (EIA, 2013). As a hydrocarbon-based liquid, major use of petroleum is in form of fuel such as jet fuel, gasoline, and oil for heating purpose. With an estimated consumption of 91 million barrels in 2015 (Mongillo, 2011), petroleum is used is production of numerous household and industrial products. Plastic is the most abundantly manufactured product made by petroleum whereby the uses of plastic and plastic products include clothing, toys, cars, and computers. Synthetic rubber and Asphalt are also manufactured through petroleum. Some of the key products used for commercial purposes that are manufactured by petroleum include pesticides, fertilizers, photo films, and packaging materials. Coal is another main type of fossil fuel within the category of non-renewable energy resource. Being a combustible fuel, coal is primarily used for producing heat and electrical energy. With an annual consumption of 153.299 quadrillion Btu in 2011 (EIA, 2013), coal is also used as coking coal and steaming coal. Coal also accounts for about 49% of the energy being used in the U.S. (Mongillo, 2011). Coking coal is used for production of iron ore whereas steaming coal is utilized for heat generation purposes. Scientists have researched and developed other uses of coal as well which includes the processes of gasification and liquefaction to produce synthetic and syngas fuels. In order to transport coking and steaming coal, maritime transport industry has built large sized vessels to transport the dry bulk commodity. China and India are the leading producers and consumers of coal, thus a considerable percentage of energy need of China is met through non-renewable source of energy.
Natural Gas being the third most used non-renewable source of energy had an estimated consumption of 118,883 billion cubic feet world over. It is a gas naturally available in form of hydrocarbon gas. Natural gas has many popular uses with most noted ones as being domestic use for cooking and heating, power generation, transportation fuel for automobiles and air jets, and in the production of fertilizers such as Ammonia (Aresta & Dibenedetto, 2007). Liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) are two forms of natural gas. LNG is natural gas converted into liquid form to ease the transportation and consumption. LNG is used for all those purposes served by natural gas but only after warming the gas back into a gaseous state (CEC, n.d.). CNG on the other hand is the natural gas converted into high pressure compressed gas. It is mainly used in automobiles, buses, and locomotives. Unlike LNG, it is highly inflammable and its use is discouraged in developed countries. Natural gas is the cleanest among all the fossil fuels mainly in use of the world population. It does produce greenhouse gases but significantly less than petroleum and coal. Radioactive fuels, specifically uraniumaccounts for approximately 4% of the non-renewable energy resource (Conservation Council SA, n.d.).Mainly the metal ore uranium is used for nuclear weapons development. Uranium is also used in nuclear power generation plants whereby a small amount of uranium is sufficient to produce significant power.
Renewable energy uses
The use of renewable energy is significantly less as compared to non-renewable energy. Renewable resources are used for the purposes of power generation, producing transport fuels, and heating purposes. Within the category of power generation, hydropower generation and wind power generation are the dominant modes of producing power. The power is distributed to both commercial and domestic use. Historically, most of the Scandinavian and Latin American countries have relied on hydropower generation for domestic and commercial purposes. Comparatively less but growing forms of producing electricity and energy are through solar power, biomass, geothermal energy, and biofuels. The use of solar power is particularly on the rise and in this technology; solar energy through sunlight is captured in photovoltaic cells to convert it into heat energy and electricity. Countries such as Denmark are conducting research and setting goals to meet their energy needs exclusively from renewable energy resources by the year 2030. Such a study conducted by Lund and Mathiesen (2009) concluded that despite being a complex task, Denmark can meet all of its energy demand from three renewable sources of energy i.e. renewable energy electricity, solar thermal, and biomass (See Appendix I). Europe as a regional block is conducting immense research and development in renewable energy resources in order to mitigate the impact of depleting resources of non-renewable energy. Having elaborated the uses of non-renewable and renewable energy, following section will highlight differences in both the forms of energy.
Contrasts of renewable and non-renewable energy use
Infinite vs. finite:The biggest factor that differentiates renewable energy from non-renewable is that it is infinitely present in the nature, for instance in the upper atmosphere environment and beneath the Earth. Being infinite, it does not carry the threat of being finished as opposed to non-renewable energy. Sunlight, wind, and geothermal energy are abundant in nature with their supply being uninterrupted and unhindered by any physical barrier. Unlike non-renewable sources of energy, the renewables are commonly present in all the geographic regions of the world. The technology to make use of renewable sources of energy is more in some countries than other but the raw material, the supply of these renewable resources are not limited to any particular country.With the passage of each year, non-renewable energy is increasingly expensive. This is due to the limited availability of fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas.
Usability: Although renewable sources of energy are abundantly available in nature, the technology to derive energy from these resources is difficult. However, this is not the case with non-renewable energy and technological infrastructure, knowledge, and expertise is much more in this field than extracting energy from renewable sources. The conversion of forms of energy in non-renewable sources is also easier and cheaper as compared to the renewable sources. This makes non-renewable energy more economical and within the reach of mass populations. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: The most striking difference that exists in non-renewable and renewable energy is that upon combustion, non-renewable sources release toxic greenhouse gases in the environment. These gases are poisonous and harm the ozone layer of sky. Thus, increased use of non-renewable sources of energy has given rise to the threat of global warming that is the depletion of ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet rays of sun. On the contrary, renewable energy is produced by processes which do not result in significant carbon emissions.
Technology development and cost: Since world has mainly focused on generating power and electricity for consumption and manufacturing purposes from non-renewable sources, there has been more investment of money and human capital in research and development activities in non-renewable sector. Though abundantly available, renewable sources need costly technologies to convert heat energy to electric power and other energy forms. The mediums through which non-renewable energy is distributed to users, such as gas and fuel stations, power generation plants, and coal factories, are convenient and economical to operate. On the other hand, operating solar panels and wind turbines requires more space and increased maintenance. Another contrasting role…[continue]
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