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WSU Environmental Science 101 Exam 2 Revised

Terms in this set (28)

Fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years. One advantage of fossil fuels is that they are well developed. The technology we use to harness the energy in fossil fuels is well developed. The main reason for this is that fossil fuels have been used to power our world for many decades. Another is that they are cheap and reliable. Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable sources of energy. They are excellent types of fuel to use for the energy base-load, as opposed to some of the more unreliable energy sources such as wind and solar. One disadvantage is that they contribute to global warming. Fossil fuels are not green sources of energy. In fact, they contain high amounts of carbon and have been blamed for being the main contributor to global warming. Another is that they are non-renewable. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources. This means that there is a finite amount of fossil fuels available and the reserves are not replenished naturally. This is not entirely correct; as fossil fuels are products of millions of years of natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. The thing is, as opposed to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, it takes millions of years before the formation of fossil fuels takes place in any noteworthy quantities. Fossil Fuels are also unsustainable. We are spending our fossil fuel reserves in a non-sustainable manner. Luckily, this forces us to think different when it comes to energy, which results in the growth of renewable and green sources of energy. Another is that they are incentivized. One of the major reasons why fossil fuels are as cheap is a history of government incentives. Coal, natural gas and petroleum received $4.22 billion most in direct subsidies - solar got $1.13 billion. Another disadvantage of fossil fuels is that fact that accidents happen. They are not nearly as serious as accidents related to nuclear power, but on the other hand, fossil fuels will never have the safety of solar and wind. The picture above is from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Energy generated in ways that do not deplete natural resources or harm the environment, especially by avoiding the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power. One advantage of using an alternative energy source is that they are safe for the environment. The whole reason that the United States and other countries around the world are using tax breaks and other incentives to encourage the production of alternative energy sources is concern about the environment. Fossil fuels are believed to be responsible for some of the damage to the Earth's protective ozone layer. This has led to global warming and issues such as melting ice caps and more destructive weather patterns. Fortunately, the ozone layer can repair itself, over time, if pollution is stopped. From wind power to solar energy and water power, alternative energy sources are all safe for the planet. Another is that it is available in unlimited supply. The other important aspect for alternative energy sources is that each is available in a relatively inexhaustible supply. That's because the supply of oil to be mined from the Earth is been dropping for decades. Other energy sources, such as wind power and solar energy, are not at risk of ever running out. Another advantage is that they are a practical substitute for fossil fuels. Of course, scientists point out that it's vital that a source of alternative energy can take the place of fossil fuels and act as a long-term replacement without any issues that could affect the world's financial markets. For example, when conflicts in the Middle East make it temporarily impossible for some of the largest exporters of oil to send out supplies to other countries, that lowers the world supply and drives up the price of oil. Alternative fuels like wind and geothermal power are being designed to take over for fossil fuels with no negative impacts. One disadvantage of using an alternative energy source is that they are not cost-effective. Currently, scientists are figuring out ways to produce various forms of alternative energy at a cost that's just as low as oil and gas. The concern is alternative energy will not be cost-effective and the price of energy will become a major issue in the future. Another is that they are not reliable. Depending on what type or types of alternative energy end up providing electricity for a bulk of Americans, the fuel must be reliable and always capable of delivering electricity. There are currently concerns with many types of alternative energy sources. Winds may not always blow strongly enough to supply the boost needed to spin turbines on wind farms. Rain and even air pollution can block sunlight from getting to solar panels for the process of transforming the light of the sun into electricity, not to mention nighttime hours.
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into electrical power. A wind turbine used for charging batteries may be referred to as a wind charger. Some pros of wind energy include: Wind energy is a green energy source and does not cause pollution; The potential of wind power is enormous - 20 times more than what the entire human population needs; Wind power is renewable and there is no way we can run out of it (since wind energy originates from the sun); Wind turbines are incredible space-efficient. The largest of them generate enough electricity to power 600 U.S. homes; Wind power only accounts for about 2.5% of total worldwide electricity production, but is growing at a promising rate of 25% per year (2010); Prices have decreased over 80% since 1980 and are expected to keep decreasing; The operational costs associated with wind power are low; Good domestic potential: Residential wind turbines yields energy savings and protects homeowners from power outages. Some cons of wind energy include: Wind is a fluctuating (intermittent) source of energy and is not suited to meet the base load energy demand unless some form of energy storage is utilized (e.g. batteries, pumped hydro); The manufacturing and installation of wind turbines requires heavy upfront investments - both in commercial and residential applications; Wind turbines can be a threat to wildlife (e.g. birds, bats); Noise is regularly reported as a problem by neighboring homes; How wind turbines look (aesthetics) is a legitimate concern for some people. The advantages of using wind energy include: Green; Enormous potential; Renewable; Space-efficient; Rapid growth; Prices are decreasing; Low operational costs; Good domestic potential. The disadvantages of using wind energy include: Unpredictable; Costs; Threat to wildlife; Noise; Looks.