Our country has a very bad habit: A dependency on fossil fuels.
For years now, the dangers of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) have been piling up. One of our largest concerns lies in the finiteness of these resources. Currently, the United States consumes 20.5 million barrels of fossil fuels a day, making up almost 25 percent of the global usage. If we continue at this rate, scientists argue that our resources will soon run dry, leaving us without energy.
The massive consumption of fossil fuels has also intensified our environmental concerns. As most know, the burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 into the air, which traps the sun’s rays, heating up the earth. Although CO2 is a natural part of our atmosphere, the increasing amounts of this greenhouse gas have raised the temperatures to new highs, resulting in droughts, rising sea levels, and strange weather patterns. As a result, global warming is one of the biggest environmental issues that we are facing today.
Due to all of the issues with fossil fuels, many countries are looking for new solutions. But, this does not come easily. In order for a coal-based nation to switch over to greener solutions, it needs money, effort, and time.
China represents one of the nations paving the way for such advancements. In 2011, the nation invested nearly $51 billion in alternative energy technologies. As a result, they currently have the highest renewable power capacity at 70 gigawatts in total. The United States is close behind in its investments, having spent $48 billion with a total generation of 68 gigawatts.
Despite these enormous investments, changes still need to be made. Cutler Cleveland, director of the Center for Energy & Environmental Studies at Boston University has explained that, based on his research, no country will completely change its dependency to renewable resources in the next 50 years. He argues that “we will have to engineer the transition,” a step that seems nearly impossible.
According to Cleveland, stopping these bad habits will require two major steps. The first is to force the transition by means of economics. He argues that by changing the price of carbon through federal legislation, the increased payments will divert the people from fossil fuels to the better solutions. This argument then leads into his second step, where Cleveland calls for a more educated conversation between the government and its people. He argues that in order for a change to be made, the people need to know what impacts their decisions are making on the environment. Increasing awareness will create a greater demand for efficiency, and a decreasing reliance on such harmful fuels. In the end, the U.S. needs to shift away from coal and oil to natural gas, renewable energy and nuclear.
Although complete changes are not ccurring immediately, the efforts to stop these bad habits are being made. As time goes on, we are quickly developing more and more efficient technology that is cheaper, more effective, and can be manufactured much more quickly.
Slowly but surely, changes towards better solutions will allow us to kick this bad habit.