Clean Energy Sources – The Need of the Hour
The smartphone has drastically changed our lives since its advent 10 years ago. Loaded with more computing power than what the NASA super-machines had in 1969, this small device has become so much a part of our lives that we feel lost without them.
Technology is changing at a rapid pace and this is having a profound effect on society. These are times of technological innovations and living amidst jet planes, satellites, computers, organ transplants, stem cells, cell phones, copiers and birth control pills.
There is no denying the fact that change is the only constant. Products are changing sizes and capabilities by the minute, they are becoming faster, efficient and cheaper and thus becoming more accessible to larger numbers of people.
Despite this refinement of technology in various fields including communications, transportation and energy systems in the last decade, we still depend on extracting and burning fossil fuels for most of our energy needs. There have been pieces of evidence of burning coal/gas for heat in China as far back as 3490 BC. The growth of the Industrial Age was fully dependent on the use of fossil fuels in different ways. Fossil fuels are thus very useful, very valuable and fuel deposits have important geopolitical implications. However, in the present times of green technology, polluted air, consumption levels and population growth, it is time that we left the fuel where it belongs to, in the ground, and look for cleaner energy sources.
The naysayers are already here. They are the ones that said that computers would never work and would lead to unemployment, ships would never sail the seas and there would not be any flying machines at all. They never believed that streetlights would work. On the contrary, they were fearful that they would increase illnesses. They were negative about telephones, radios, trains, computers, automobiles and nuclear power. Most technological innovations and ideas were met with unfounded fears, those that made them believe that the welfare of mankind would be at stake.
Fossil fuels are those that we derive from fossils of living matter from the past. Fossils are those from the times before the dinosaurs lived, predominantly plant matter that grew in swamps. Without enough air to completely decompose, when they sank to the bottom of the swamps, they turned into peat. These were buried under layers of sand and silt, the moisture was squeezed out and they turned into fuels. What the plant captured during photosynthesis and stored as carbon and hydrogen bonds during all these years form the source of energy of the fossil fuels.
The best thing about fossil fuels is that they are inexpensive if you do not take into account the catastrophic change in climate that burning of fossil fuels has brought us to. Fossil fuels are of limited supply, that is, they will eventually run out of stock.
They are easily accessible now, but all that will change soon. These have also led to other unconventional methods of tracking fossil fuels such as drilling in the deep seas, fracking and treating oil-sands. These can damage ecosystems and cause increased imbalance. Another important fact is that fossil fuels are used for other purposes including the manufacture of medicines, lubricants, and plastics. Therefore, in more ways than one, it does not make sense to burn the limited supply fossil fuels away.
Renewable energy sources have expanded dramatically across the globe in the last couple of decades. This has been made possible by technological innovations and reducing costs. Solar, wind, and energy storage systems have improved in terms of technology and come down in cost. Biomimicry and other new ideas are shaping sustainable design. Smart grid systems are used to supply electricity to homes using automation and remote control methods. Therefore, it is important to note that our energy choices today will have massive consequences on our climate, health, and economy for many years to come. It is our collective responsibility to reject destructive energy generation methods in favour of clean energy sources.
This means we have to understand how science works so that we are able to use its tools with mastery. For this, we have to change and understand that there are better options available to lead a good life on planet earth.
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