Concerns that have been raised regarding energy security have been occasioned by fears about oil and other fossil fuel depletion; reliance on foreign sources of energy; geopolitics; developing countries' energy needs; environmental concerns; population dynamics; and renewable and other alternative energy sources (Shah, 2011). This essay seeks to establish whether alternative energy sources can help ease human reliance on oil.
It is important that governments invest on alternative sources of energy because sometime in the future the vast sources of fossil fuel will get depleted. There are chances that fossil fuel extraction and production may peak sometime in the future (Shah, 2011). Globalization has made it possible for goods to be manufactured away from where the consumers are situated. These manufactured goods are often transported using cheap oil to the intended markets. High oil prices that have recently been witnessed threaten this current form of globalization. The key to off-setting overreliance on foreign oil rests on technological advancement (Shah, 2011).
Economies that intend to free themselves from the yoke of dependence on foreign oil have to learn to use less of the oil. However, it would be near catastrophic for such economies to terminate importation of oil before they look for alternatives. It is therefore imperative that industries manufacturing cars and trucks contemplate coming up with car models that do not consume a lot of fuel. Countries like the United States of America use 70 per cent of oil in transportation (Chu, 2011). As a matter of fact, 65 per cent of this is used on personal vehicles. Because of challenges posed by reliance on fossil oil from foreign sources to major world economies it is important that policy makers in energy portfolios in both developed and developing economies contemplate integrating energy independence in their policy structures. Energy independence implies energy security. This brings about supply and price stability from the economic perspective. This objective can only be achieved when alternative transportation fuels as well as multi-fuel vehicles are developed. Consumers will therefore have myriad alternatives to choose from. They can possibly opt for non-petroleum fuels. Energy security is on the brink because of the influence governments have on world petroleum reserves. In fact, over 80 per cent of these reserves are state-owned (Chu, 2011). These governments manipulate supply and price of oil with utmost impunity.
Attainment of energy independence can be realized when cars, trucks and buses on national highways-boats and ship on waterways-national airlines and railways are powered by fuels made in such countries. This should also apply to off-road recreational, construction and farm vehicles. When you bring the United States economy into perspective it is regrettable that it largely depends on foreign oil. Statistics indicate that 57 per cent of oil consumed in the U.S. is imported from foreign destinations apparently the Middle East (Chu, 2011). Seventy per cent of this imported oil is mainly used in transportation. Of over twenty million barrels of oil products consumed everyday in the United States; 14 million barrels are consumed for transportation fuel (Chu, 2011). Six million barrels of crude oil imported everyday by the United States comes from the OPEC nations (Chu, 2011). Reliance on OPEC oil can be done away with when petroleum fuels like gasoline and diesel are replaced with non-petroleum alternatives. This will set an example for other world economies to emulate.
During the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the United States government responded by replacing petroleum fuel oil with coal that was manufactured internally. The government also embarked on obtaining clean energy from nuclear power plants. Natural gas was also used to power generators during this period. This has until recently eased reliance on petroleum oil as a primary source of energy. The U.S.A. does not rely on foreign sources of energy for electricity generation. Kicking the oil habit is a tall order but is a sacrifice worth making bearing in mind that electricity utility industry did it over 35 years ago. It is something that the automobile industry should seriously think about (Chu, 2011). It is high time car and trucks started using synthetic fuels manufactured from alcohol and diesel, natural gas, bio-fuels, and electricity. In fact, research exists that supports this. Energy independence if carefully considered can help in creation of job opportunities for the jobless.
Nuclear power, apart from the problems that have been witnessed in the recent past, can be an alternative source of energy. This energy source is efficient and environmentally friendly especially when nuclear wastes are properly handled (Shah, 2011). Environmentalists are always quick to dismiss reliance on nuclear energy citing the consequences and costs of accidents with regard to handling of nuclear wastes. This should not form the basis for dismissing it in totality given that if proper regulatory framework is put in place these fears can be done away with. Many countries are considering constructing their own nuclear power plants. The International Energy Agency posits that by 2030 more than $20 billion shall have been invested to harness the atom for energy output (Shah, 2011).
The Indian government projects that by 2050 25% of her energy needs will be provided by nuclear power a sharp contrast to the current 3%. Solar, wind and wave power can also cater for human energy needs and hence relieve reliance on oil. International Energy Agency reiterates that fossil fuel use is subsidized to the tune of billions of dollars globally. Over 300 billion dollars were used in the year 2009 only (Shah, 2011). Subsidies channeled to fossil fuel are five times more than those directed towards renewable energy sources. This translated into $57 billion in 2009 (Shah, 2011). In the U.S. many states have developed off-shore wind to complement solar energy (Newkirk, 2010). They consider this more efficient compared to large nuclear power plants and fossil fuel such as oil.
The 2008 Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) report indicates that renewable energy contributed 12.9 per cent of global primary energy supply. Nuclear power contributed 2%. Fossil fuels like coal and oil contributed 85.1% (Shah, 2011). The report further shows that renewable energy contributed approximately 19 per cent of world electricity supply. Biomass contributes a larger proportion of these renewable. Commercial production of bio-energy is also a source of renewable energy. Cooking and heating requisites in developing countries are provided by 60% of biomass (Shah, 2011).
Developing countries are quickly considering using modern biomass. The use of direct solar energy, wind power, and hydropower varies in different parts of the world. Political push can help in popularizing the use of renewable energy among the masses considering that the price of fossil fuels like oil continue to increase while those of renewable continue to decline. In fact, their prices have become more competitive. Governments should consider subsidizing production of these renewable energy sources and their alternatives so that citizens can instead go out for them (Shah, 2011).
Incidences that occurred during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and Iran's geopolitical issues are a major source of concern with regards to nuclear energy use. In a world where energy demands are ever increasing, nuclear energy can act as leverage. Opponents of nuclear energy often argue that the risks associated with the technology are too high. Others look at nuclear energy as an unfortunate reality that cannot be wished away. After the Fukushima incident in March 2011 nuclear policy became subject of debate in several parts of the world (Shah, 2011). These debates did not take cognizance of the fact that it was the older nuclear power reactors that were impacted by the earthquake and that newer design of nuclear reactors are very robust. However, arguments have been advanced to the effect of a possibility of a stronger earthquake destroying these new design nuclear reactors.
The Fukushima incidence has made many countries in Europe rethink their nuclear policies especially countries that lie within seismic zones Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. Countries like Germany that cannot do without nuclear power was profoundly affected by the Fukushima incident and is considering sustaining her electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2050 (Shah, 2011).
The German government has since indicated that they intend to shut down 17 nuclear reactors and speed up approvals for renewable energy investments. Renewable energy sources being echoed as a substitute for oil also pose a lot of challenges. These challenges are technical, social, economic, political and geopolitical in nature (Shah, 2011). Alternative energy use as opposed to oil creates an environment that is free from pollution. The cost of cleaning up the mess created by oil is so high. Use of oil in fuelling automobiles pollutes the environment and heavily impacts the ecosystem.
Hydroelectric power has been used for time immemorial. Its use dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century. It is the primary source of electricity in the United States. It uses flowing water to create energy that is captured and turned into electricity (Alternative Energy Resources, 2008). It is indeed the largest source of renewable energy in the United…