This assignment is aligned with course objectives #2, 3, 4, and 6. By this point in the semester, you have learned a great deal about human impact on the planet, about a growing population and an increasingly technological population, and about limited Earth resources. And you just finished up the chapter on Energy. Oil is the cheapest energy source only because we have used it for so long that we have extensive and redundant technology to exploit it. And yet it is a dangerous process to acquire it. First there is the danger to the drillers themselves: http://ohsonline.com/articles/2009/07/01/oil-and-gas-drilling-rig-hazards.aspx
Then there are the hazards to the environment from drilling-gone-wrong. You would have had to be isolated in a cave to not be aware of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred a few years ago. During that same time and since, there were at least two other oil spills from oil tankers running aground.
Interesting and thorough article from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation: http://www.itopf.com/marine-spills/effects/
Our need for fossil fuels is increasing faster than our population, and energy is not the only use we have for petroleum. This list is in the “lecture” for Chapter 13, but you can also see the products that we get from petroleum at http://www.ranken-energy.com/Products%20from%20Petroleum.htm (BIG HINT: you need to know a few of these items for the next test….) It won’t happen in my lifetime, and it may not happen in yours, but people are going to run out of petroleum. I once dated a petroleum engineer who believed that we would NEVER run out of oil, which technology will continue to develop to extract oil that we aren’t even able to currently detect. In the meantime, we will go to increasing and risky lengths to acquire more oil.
What about deep sea drilling: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/21/bp-deep-sea-technology-cio-network-drilling.html
What about drilling in national wildlife refuges (blog followed by many comments): http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2008/09/11/anwr_oil_drilling/?s_src=ggad&s_subsrc=anwr&gclid=CJuHx9zqtqMCFVjW5wodVGMPdg
As if the acquisition of oil is not hazardous enough to the environment, the burning of fossil fuels releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. Just to charge your cell phone battery uses ¼ pound of coal a day and produces ½ lb of carbon dioxide a day. And the rise in carbon dioxide is believed to be the cause of global warming.
So what about our renewal alternatives that your book talks about?
Biofuels – excellent idea in theory, falls apart in practice. See this article about the advantages and disadvantages: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-biofuels.html
Wind energy – excellent idea in such a windy state as Oklahoma, but there are many problems with it as well. Here’s an article about these pros and cons:http://www.buzzle.com/articles/wind-energy-pros-and-cons.html
Solar energy – now, who hasn’t marveled at the ability of plants to feed themselves with nuthin’ but a sunny day and a bit of water? And we all enjoy the feel of the sun’s warmth on our face after a long winter. But is solar energy the answer for US energy needs? http://www.buzzle.com/articles/solar-energy-pros-and-cons.html
I really don't think I have to tell you that while nuclear energy is very clean and very efficient, when it goes wrong as in Japan (and in Russia 25 years ago), it goes horribly wrong! The meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor in Russia happened 25 years ago, and yet the wild pigs are so reactive (they eat things straight out of the soil, and the soil is the most heavily contaminated with radioactive fallout), people are warned not to eat them! It is estimated that the area will not be habitable for another 25,000 years. (and if you believe the recent movie Chernobyl Diaries, there's radioactive monsters of some sort eager to prey on tourists....)
The question: What do we do now about our need for energy? Do we continue to drill in the ocean floor and open up drilling in national parks and wildlife refuges, risking the health of these diverse and fragile ecosystems? Do we work harder at weaning ourselves from petroleum, even though alternative energy and product sources are expensive? While I ask these questions for academic purposes, these are serious questions that must be addressed by all of us in the near future.
Go to Discussion #3 in Blackboard to post your thoughts and reply to your fellow students.