Controversial Issues With Alternative Energy Sources

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The movement to use more alternative fuels has probably been driven by the rise of petroleum-based gases. There are also those who claim that alternative energy should be used simply for the positive environmental impact. Despite the seemingly logical reasons to use such energies, they are not without faults. This article will explore some of the controversies with alternative energy sources.

Alternative Energy

  • Alternative energy is loosely defined as any form of energy that isn't completely petroleum-based. Some forms of alternative energy, especially for powering vehicles, involve a combination of gasoline and another source like electricity or even water. Some of the more traditional forms include solar energy and wind energy, while others are less common such as biodiesel and vegetable oil.

Energy Efficiency

  • Some forms of alternative energy can be considered inefficient in terms of how much energy it costs to support versus how much energy is produced. Solar energy can seem like a limitless source of energy in certain parts of the world, such as the Mojave Desert. But most solar panels turn only 22 percent of the rays they capture into usable energy. Given that solar energy systems can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for home installation, it could be a long time before you see any real benefits.

Space Efficiency

  • Another problem with alternative energy is the amount of space that is used to either produce them or house them. Producing ethanol requires the byproducts of corn or sugar canes. Growing crops solely for those purposes means clearing acres and acres of land that may not be available. Space efficiency is also an issue when it comes to cars. Hydrogen-based fuel is seen as one of the cleanest fuels a car can use, producing zero emissions of greenhouse gases. However, the hydrogen fuel cells are relatively small. The Fuel Economy website says that onboard hydrogen fuel storage only allows for 200 miles of travel.

International Impact

  • There can also be negative international impact for producing alternative fuels. In April 2007, the United Nations reported that the growing industry for ethanol-based fuel was actually causing genocide in some countries. Third World countries had stopped growing corn for food and instead grew it for its cash value, causing prices to soar. There was little corn left for consumption. Poor nations were paying high prices for food that had to be shipped in from other countries.

Limited Availability

  • Natural alternative resources, such as solar energy and wind energy, are only abundant in certain parts of the globe at limited times. The Mojave Desert may get a lot of sun, but Seattle does not. Chicago, Illinois might be known as the windy city, but there could be little breeze in Charleston, South Carolina during the muggy summers. Even with non-traditional sources, availability is limited. There are few hydrogen fuel cars on the market because of transportation and storage costs of the cells. Ethanol gas pumps do exist, but mostly in states like California where there are more ethanol-based cars.

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