Solution Proposal Adam Lorentz
  • I found this part of my paper to be particularly interesting:

The part of my paper that I found interesting was how much we rely on fossil fuels rather than looking for cleaner fuels.

  • This part was surprisingly difficult:

The part that i found difficult was trying to find sources that were recent rather than an older one

  • Next time I would do this differently:

Next time i would look for more sources to back things up in my paper. A lot of this was stuff i already was taught in classes.



When it comes to the environment there are people that do not understand what is actually happening to the environment. What is meant by this is that our environment is being harmed everyday by the over use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels account for 85% of current US fuel use and can range from the gas that is put in your vehicle, the oil that is being drilled and also the coal that is being mined for the production of energy. (Union of Concerned Scientists) This may seem like it is all good but the impact that is placed on the environment is huge when talking about mining, drilling, or even fracking. When these processes are done they leave an empty waste land that is full of gravel and over burden that is not at all good for getting the land used back to what it was before the mining or drilling happened.

With the use of fossil fuels there is the creation of greenhouse gases. This can also be referred to air pollution or the presence of chemicals in the atmosphere in concentrations high enough to harm organism, ecosystems, or human-made materials, or to alter climate. (Living in the Environment) Greenhouse gasses can be water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and even ozone. These gases can also hurt the environment and even us. The gases absorb and reflect the heat from the sun back to the earth's surface much like the effect that takes place in an actual greenhouse, but on a much larger scale. These effects that are produced from the gases are the main cause for global warming. Even though some people don't believe in global warming it is scientifically proven that the earth is warming up but at a much faster rate because of these gases in the atmosphere.

With this this large amount of greenhouse gases and overuse of fossil fuels the air quality can suffer. The air can actually become poisonous and very harmful to our bodies. A great example of this is in China where the air quality is very poor and looks like a hazy fog when it is actually a cloud of pollution. The people in these parts of China will wear protective mask over their mouths and noses just to help keep the cloud of pollution from harming them more. Also in China when the 2008 Summer Olympics were held they made a large number of laws in Beijing just to attempt to make the air quality better for the athletes. The air quality can reach a point where it gets too polluted that the rain that falls can be acidic. This is due from the large amount of emissions from greenhouse gases and other pollutants.(Likens Driscoll Buso) What this acidic rain can do is harm the plant life and also add more acidic molecules to the ground which makes it harder for plants to grow in ground that should be ideal for them. Not only does this acid rain affect the plant life but it can also degrade our infrastructure such as bridges, statues, and even cause paint to peel.(Likens Driscoll Buso) This causes our country to spend more money on replacing and maintaining buildings, stone structures, and bridges.

With our overuse of fossil fuels we are quickly becoming more dependent on other countries for more oil.(Union of Concerned Scientists) There are a few problems with this dependence and that is that it can cause us to help protect these countries. This means that military troops are sent in to protect the country while we take a percentage of their oil and use it for our own needs. This causes our country to spend more on our military and also add more to our fossil fuel consumption. Most of the countries that we get our oil from are third world or less developed countries that can easily be taken advantage of. Instead of them using their oil for advancing their countries they are selling it to countries and staying where they are on the food chain. Some could say that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

So with all of this being said I hope that you are thinking about all the things that you use every day that are fueled by fossil fuels and how you take them for granted. For example when you flip on a light switch you are using energy that is produced from the burning of coal or the use of other fossil fuels, and also all of the effects that are caused to our environment just from that flip of a switch. There are a few reasons for this that our overuse of fossil fuels takes place and that is because we are dependent on them and are afraid to get away from the mining, drilling, and fracking because that has been the norm for the last few decades. Rather than looking for a cleaner energy source we are trying to make destroying the environment an okay thing to do when it really is not good for anyone. When something is changed in the environment it affects everyone in a negative way.

Now when it comes to fossil fuels most people think about just the drilling down and eventually oil will come spewing out from the ground. Well this is one way that the collection of fossil fuels does take place but there are also other ways such as fracking, land striping, and a few different types of mining underground fossil fuels. All of these are the reason why we overuse fossil fuels and why we are so dependent on them. We think that there is this endless supply of fossil fuel, and that we do not need to worry about what we are actually doing to the environment. The truth is that we are harming our environment more when we use these techniques for collecting fossil fuels.

The dirtiest way that we can collect fossil fuels is the process of fracking. This is done by drilling a hole, or well, down to a certain point where a layer of fossil fuel sits. This fossil fuel is usually coal deposits. From the bottom of this well, another well is drilled horizontally through the fossil fuel. After the entire well is drilled, the hole is then filled with a hose and concrete to protect the ground from absorbing any of the chemicals that they use to loosen up the hard fossil fuel. After the concrete has hardened the hose is capped of at the end and filled with a mixture of dangerous chemicals and water that is sprayed out of little holes and forces the hard coal to break apart. This process of capping and spraying will continue until the horizontal layer of coal is completely broken up and is then pumped up the hole and sent to a plant to get processed. What makes this process so dirty is that these barriers can sometimes leak and the chemicals can get into the ground water where they will be transported throughout the ground and possibly into someone's water supply.

When it comes to drilling for fossil fuels we most likely will drill for oil or natural gas. This is the process of drilling down to an oil of natural gas deposit and then pumping the fossil fuel up through that whole. The fossil fuel is then sent to the processing plant from there. This type of collecting fossil fuels can be dangerous however because of the risk of the ground collapsing like the incident in Turkmenistan. This was an incident where the ground under a natural gas deposit collapsed and a large amount of gas escaped. Instead of trying to stop the escaping gas the scientist ignited the gas thinking it would burn off after a few mouths. The funny thing about this is that the whole has been burning for more than 40 years and is now called the "Door to Hell" due to its large area of burning gas.

Mining is probably the most practical way of getting a fossil fuel. There are two different types of mining and that is mining open cuts, or underground cuts. Mining open cuts has a big impact on the environment due to the large amount of land that is moved in order to get to the fossil fuel. This land removal is never thought of when mining is talked about. After all of the fossil fuel is collected from this open cut the miners are supposed to have to ground be like they found it. Instead of the ground being full of rich dirt like it was before it was cleared off, the ground is now rocks and dirt with little nutrients for plants to grow back. Also the plant life that does grow back is usually not the same as the plant life before it was cleared. Underground mining is exactly as it sounds. It is going underground to a layer of fossil fuel, usually coal, and breaking the coal up and sending it up to the earth's surface where it then transported to be processed. There are a few things that are wrong with this though. One is the risk of the ground collapsing on the miners and another risk it the fact that these fossil fuels when dug up can give off a dust that is not healthy for the human body. The people that mine these layers of coal usually get sick and have little black specs stuck in their lungs called black lung disease.(Union of Concerned Scientists) So with mining not only is it hurting the land but it can also hurt humans in a negative way.

What do all of these types of ways to collect fossil fuels have in common? The answer is simple. They all have to have the fossil fuel that is collected and have it processed for everyday life. This processing step can harm the environment even worse because of the ways that it is done. There are different ways to process fossil fuels and they can range from using large amounts of water, to using large amount of heat and burning the fuel while at the same time releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. When using heat to process a fossil fuel, the fossil fuel is pumped through a boiler and the contents in the fuel is separated out. This process is usually done with crude oil and the products that come out of the crude oil are carbon gas, naphtha, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, lubricating oil, a heavy gas oil, and also residual.(Living in the Environment) This process, like many other processes, uses water to help separate the fossil fuels. While this may seem nice to have all of these products from the crude oil there is a problem with a few of the products. Some of these products feed the effects of greenhouse gases and can harm our environment even more. Another huge danger to the environment is the process that is used to get usable oil out of shale or tar sands. This process uses large amounts of water and chemicals to break apart the sand from the oil. This process of extracting the oil can be very pollutant to the ecosystems around the area. This process causes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other type of processing.

To sum everything up, we are trying to fix the problem of drilling, mining, and fracking instead of trying to use different methods to power today's already needy society. Ways that we could fix the problem of fossil fuels is switching to a cleaner source of energy such as geothermal, hydro, wind, nuclear, solar, and even hydrogen. All of these energy producers are a lot cleaner and much safer for the environment. These energy sources are also much more sustainable than the fossil fuels that we use today.

Among these possible sources of energy production, wind power is a growing source. This process of getting electricity uses wind to turn a turbine. The energy that is produced from turning this turbine is then transferred to a generator, and then transferred to where the energy is used. What is really nice about this energy is that it has no greenhouse gas emissions. This type of energy production is also widely available and this makes the cost of the electricity cheaper which would benefit everyone in the long run. Even though these wind turbines can be loud to some and even annoying, we can get a high energy yield from this source of energy. (Sustaining the Earth)

Solar power has seemed to be growing in the last few years and when you ask a person about solar energy they can usually tell you the basic concept of the process. Like the other sustainable sources, solar power has little to no greenhouse gas emissions. The process of solar energy uses photovoltaic cells to collect the sun light and transfer it into useable energy. This energy is also cheap energy that will pay you back over a few years for the money that you spent on the solar panels. There are a few downsides to this type of energy. The starting cost of getting these panels can be quite expensive and also you may need a backup system when the sun light is blocked by trees or other objects. Even though these problems can occur it is worth it to because, like stated before, the savings you will get will pay you back in a few years. There are also other things that these panels can be used for and the major way is to heat a building. If you did not know that Bemidji State University uses solar panels to heat their Hobson Memorial Union Building then that is because these panels are also easily hidden so they are not such an eye sore. The panels that BSU uses collects direct sunlight and that sunlight is then transferred into heating energy for the building, which from personal experience is always warm even on the days that it is 50 below zero outside.

The energy source that I believe will benefit everyone is geothermal. This sustainable source of energy uses heat that is stored in soil, underground rocks, and fluids in the earth's mantle. (Sustaining the Earth) Not many people know about geothermal energy but there are three very effective ways to harness this energy. This type of energy production is a personal favorite and I am baffled but how simple the process is and the high amount of heat and energy that is gained from using geothermal energy.

The first way is called a geothermal heat pump system. This uses the temperature difference between the surface and underground. This pump can be used to heat in the cold winter months and even cool homes in the hot summer days. The process of this heating pump system uses water that is pumped down into the ground where it is either heated or cooled based on the temperature outside. This water is then pumped back up and then heats or cools the air that is being cycled through the room. This process uses no open flame or other fossil fuel to heat the water. All a person needs is a pump and some storage tanks for the water.

The second way that geothermal energy can help get rid of fossil fuels is the use of underground hydrothermal reservoirs. This is the extraction of dry and wet steam, or hot water. These hydrothermal reservoirs are heated by underground magma. This means that the heating source is reusable and non-pollutant. The hot water that is used has a few positive ways that they can help be more sustainable. The water or steam can be used to heat homes much like the heat pump system, grow vegetables in greenhouses, and also spin turbines to produce electricity. What is also great about these reservoirs is that once found they can supply energy and heat for years to come. The United States is the world's largest producer of geothermal energy from hydrothermal reservoirs. (Sustaining the Earth) This is a good example of how much the United States and other countries can expand their geothermal energy production.

Lastly the type of geothermal energy that I find interesting is by using hot rocks that are deep in the ground. These rocks can be found three or more miles underground. The basic concept of using these rocks is to heat water that is pumped down to these rocks and turned into steam. The steam then rises up a different well and spins a turbine. The steam then condenses back into water and pumped back down to the rocks. This creates a cycle of water that is being reused. There are a few downsides to this type of geothermal energy is that it can cost a lot to get started because of the deep drilling that is needed and land that needed for the turbines, pumps and storage for the electricity. On the bright side this cost can be brought down with more research.

With the few different geothermal ways to produce heat and energy there are always going to be advantages and disadvantages with energy production. The advantages that geothermal energy can have is that it is a very efficient source, it has less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels, the cost can be low if a favorable site is found, and also a descent amount of energy can be gained from geothermal energy. With a few advantages already stated I am sure that you can figure out the disadvantages of geothermal energy. The disadvantages are that if it is not at a favorable site then the cost can be high, there is a scarce amount of suitable places, can be noisy, and geothermal energy has greenhouse gas emissions.

Even though with my solution there are downsides, there will be downsides to any solution proposal. Geothermal energy is more sustainable and has less greenhouse gas emissions than any fossil fuel. We need to stop and think that our overuse of these fuels are destroying the environment and creating a planet that will be handed to the future generations. People need to get off the bandwagon of fossil fuels and start thinking about others rather than buying something bigger and better than their neighbor. So I ask you, do you think that you can make the switch to a cleaner and safer energy source? It is an easy question to answer but a harder question to solve.

References

Union of Concerned Scientists, The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels, Union of Concerned Scientists, 29 October 2002, April 18 2014

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html


Miller Spoolman, Sustaining the Earth, Chapter 10, Brooks/Cole,2012, April 18 2014


Miller Spoolman, Living in the Environment, Brooks/Cole, 2012, April 19 2014


Likens Driscoll Buso, Long-term Effects of Acid Rain: Response and Recovery of a Forest Ecosystem, Jstor, Vol 272, April 12 1996, 244-246, April 20 2014

http://www.esf.edu/efb/mitchell/Class%20Readings/Sci.272.244.246.pdf

Solution Proposal Peer Review Adam Lorentz

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