The heated debate about the dangerous effects that come from the continued use of fossil fuels as the main sources of energy has resulted in a number of recommendations (Kowalski 5). Among the recommendations is the suggestion for other sources of energy, instead of the fossil fuels.
These are known as alternative energy sources. As of today, a lot of resources are being diverted to projects and programs that aim at popularizing alternative energy sources not only at household level, but also at the industrial level.
However, the most important question when it comes to the different forms of renewable energy that have been devised concerns the sustainability of these forms of energy in terms of the quantity and minimal impacts on the environment.
This paper argues that the alternative forms of energy seem not to offer a perfect solution to the demands of energy in the contemporary world. The paper explores alternative energy.
It also focuses on the pros and cons, as well as the contemporary and future developments concerning the subject of alternative energy.
Understanding the issue of alternative energy
It is common to hear a lot of people mention the topic of alternative energy when it comes to the issue of sustainable development. Alternative energy sources are sources of energy that are different from fossil fuels. For a long time, fossil fuels have been highly deployed in the production of energy.
However, concerns have been raised about the level of pollution in the environment that is caused by the increased emission of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, which harm the environment. Greenhouse gases are broadly classified into two.
These are chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (Metz 165). A larger percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are emitted from the burning of fossil fuels.
It is important to note that the subject of sustainable development brings into picture the realities about the dangers of continued use of non-renewable forms of energy, the most common being fossil fuels.
Therefore, most people agree with the argument that it is important to tap energy from alternative sources. Different from the non-renewable forms of energy, most of the alternative sources of energy are renewable. This is an aspect that embraces sustainability.
Common alternative energy sources include hydroelectric energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, biomass energy, and nuclear energy.
However, Hore-Lacy and Hore-Lacy (7) observe that there is a volatile discussion about the efficient development and use of nuclear energy to generate power. The debate emanates from the politicisation of nuclear energy.
Research shows that billions of dollars have already been pumped into different projects as part of the global initiative of minimizing the use of non-renewable forms of energy, while ensuring that the energy production meets the energy demand.
In this sense, it is important to mention that the index of industrial growth globally is quite high. This indicates the increased demand for energy.
Therefore, the most critical question that needs to be answered at this juncture concerns the ability of people to balance between reduction in the consumption of non-renewable energy and the introduction and use of alternative energy (Ravilious 21).
Pros and cons of alternative energy
As observed earlier, alternative energy is the form of energy that is free from the substances that pollute the environment. More often than not, people refer to the substances as greenhouse gases.
These gases that originate from the non-renewable forms of energy are responsible for the pollution of the environment. They include carbon dioxide, chlorinated fluorocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, methane, and sulphur hexafluoride.
One of the advantages of alternative energy is that it is clean because it does not release the pollutant gases into the environment.
The use of alternative forms of energy as opposed to the use of non-renewable energy results in a significant reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Balat and Kırtay (7146) observe that the gasification of biomass offers an efficient and economic alternative route to the production of one of the most desirable energy; that is, renewable hydrogen.
Levin (50) observes that one of the advantages of most forms of alternative energy is that they can be recycled. Therefore, it is possible to continue getting significant amounts of energy from the same sources when funding is adequate.
The issue of recycling is important now that a lot of environmentalists show concern about the issue of the depletion of natural resources. This goes hand in hand with the issue of cost.
From the outset of things, the costs of establishing alternative energy systems may be high, but the benefits are worthwhile in the long run.
While alternative energy generation receives a lot of support from stakeholders across the board, fears and concerns are also raised about the possible risks associated with different forms of alternative energy.
Moura, Barbosa, and Costa (33) ascertain that there are a number of hazards that are associated with the wind turbines that are used to generate wind energy. It is, therefore, important to observe that the continuous supply of most of the alternative forms of energy depends on nature.
Examples are the wind, hydro-generated electricity, and solar energy.
Picturing this from the perspective of demand and supply of energy, most commentators argue that alternative energy only serves the role of supplementing the non-renewable forms of energy because the quantities of energy generated based on the changes in nature cannot sustain the energy demand.
This means that some forms of alternative energy can only be produced in certain regions where the natural conditions are favourable (Belsie 1).
According to Yuanan and Hefa (3044-3045), alternative forms of energy require people who desire to use them to acquire high levels of technical knowledge, as well as the development of technical systems that support the functioning of the systems.
Taking the example of solar, biomass, and nuclear energy, nuclear plants and solar energy panels have to be in place for the energy to be generated.
It is quite expensive to set up and maintain nuclear plants because it requires a high level of technical competence to manage the plants effectively.
Moreover, such a form of energy is potentially hazardous in case of internally and externally derived risks and uncertainties (Yılmaz and Selim 420-421).
The present and future of nuclear energy
It is apparent that zeroing down the production of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere requires an increase in the development and deployment of alternative forms of energy.
However, a lot of developments that happen in the energy industry point to the lack of complete objectivity when it comes to the exploitation of alternative energy sources.
One of the issues that come up here is that the nuclear energy, which is a non-renewable energy source and has the potential of boosting the supply of energy, is subjected to debate.
It is critical to observe that most of the issues raised about the development and use of nuclear energy as an alternative energy form are hefty.
While nuclear energy is the best option in terms of the supply of a large number of alternative energy units, such energy can be equally lethal to the living creatures when it comes to managing the production of the energy (Schiffman 360).
Quatro and Sims (169) note that the use of nuclear energy presents an ethical dilemma that revolves around the possible commercialization of nuclear energy and the dangers that are associated with poor handling and use of this form of energy.
It can be argued that that the fears over the authorization of the development and use of this form of energy are justifiable in the sense that this nuclear energy has proven to be harmful if not handled cautiously.
Examples include the Chernobyl disaster and the recent earthquake in Japan that saw the discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere, thereby posing a danger to life. The technical aspects of handling nuclear energy are real.
These aspects are likely to dominate the issue of alternative energy as governments continue to seek for means of increasing the consumption of alternative energy and reducing the consumption of forms of energy that are non-renewable (“Government and Nuclear Energy” 65).
In their research on the future of nuclear energy, Elena et al. (61) observed that there is a need to deliberate on the possibility of reducing the health impacts of nuclear energy. Most of the health concerns revolve around the release of radioactive substances that harm life.
However, this possibility can only become a reality if all the players embrace objectivity. This means that the debate on nuclear energy should focus on the enhancement of the capacity of nations to develop and use nuclear power.
It is possible to boost the supply of alternative energy supply through supporting other countries to develop their potential to generate large volumes of nuclear energy (Araj, Fahmy and Sompon 14-15).
It can be noted that the demand for oil, which is the leading source of energy, continues to rise even as people focus on alternative energy.
However, most countries continue to embrace diversity in terms of sustainable energy supply, a factor that points to the continued development of alternative energy generation. Here, two questions come into the minds of environmental commentators.
The first question concerns the availability of oil, while the second question revolves around the ease of use and cost of oil (Maczulak 5-6). It is obvious that the demand for energy continues to rise as industrial development and the consumerism culture continue to dominate the globe.
The implication here is that the new forms of energy cannot help in meeting the demand for energy (Belsie 1). Moreover, alternative energy sources are not readily available and accessible to people.
This leaves people with the option of non-renewable forms of energy that are readily available, even though they are expensive and destructive to the environment in the long run (de Oliveira, Carlos and Devezas 764).
Another critical thing that is bound to dominate the subject of alternative energy is the possibility of minimizing the risks that are associated with the development and use of these energy forms (Moura, Barbosa, and Costa 34).
From the research conducted in the paper, it can be concluded that most people agree with the fact that alternative energy is desirable in combating environmental pollution.
However, it is apparent that the amount of such energy is still far much low in the contemporary economy due to the challenges that are associated with the production and use of large volumes of alternative energy.
Future research needs to focus on the modalities of subsidising alternative energy production to increase the volumes of such energy, thereby replacing non-renewable energy.
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