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Clashing Views on Environmental Issues

Introduction

There are a number of environmental issues discussed by Easton in his book, “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Environmental Issues.” In his book, the author discusses various issues that result to the eventual degradation of our environment in line with the concept of the sustainable world. This essay will focus on one of the 12 environmental issues discussed by Easton so as to give a comprehensive analysis of environmental problems. In that regard, we are going to focus on energy issues as contained in the third unit of the book. The energy issues discussed in the unit include: whether or not oil drilling should be licensed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, whether or not global warming is just but skepticism, is it time to re-establish nuclear energy, will biofuel technology boost our energy solutions, is there need for a green car, and is wind power really a green energy, (Easton, 2006).

Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy

Over the years the demand for fossil fuels has been on the rise as the world advances in technology. The cutting-edge technologies mean higher demand for energy that is also driven by market needs. The amount of carbon dioxide emission released to the atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels has resulted to the depletion of the ozone layer leading to global warming. It is said that the burning of gas and oil besides coal in America contributes to almost half of air pollution. Burning coal releases radioactive substances into the atmosphere more than nuclear power plants. This, therefore, means that use of nuclear energy is friendlier to the environment than coal and fossil fuels. Moreover, world’s fossil fuel reserves are reducing at a rapid rate while there are large reserves of uranium that is that is used to produce nuclear energy and this means nuclear energy is more sustainable than fossil fuels energy.

The second merit of adopting the use of nuclear energy is due to its reliability. Nuclear energy production is less vulnerable to possible shortages emanating from natural disasters or strike because nuclear power plants use require little energy. Little energy means less pollution of the environment; therefore, nuclear form of energy means a more sustainable environment. Radon exposure is reduced through mining of uranium out of the ground while on the other end coal mining leads to future radon exposure. It if therefore safer to use nuclear fuel than burning coal because of this reduced future radon exposure.

benefits

Also, nuclear power plants are the safest to human health if precautionary measures are taken in totality. A number of Americans die from respiratory diseases due to polluted air acquired from coal mining and burning plants. In the contrary, no Americans has been reported dead or seriously injured due to accidents occurring from a nuclear power plant. This is because nuclear power plants are built with hard steel structures that are further reinforced with concrete steel to separate heat from reactor core and prevent it from reaching outside surface. Nuclear reactor dome is built tough to resist even the effects of an earthquake or a plane crash. There are sensors that are able to detect faultiness at any point of the reactor and should there be any leakage, there are mechanisms to stop chain reaction if need be. Another safety measure that is taken for a nuclear reactor plant is Emergency Core Cooling System containing cooling water so that in the event of an accident, the reactor is cooled instantly.

Having looked at the pros of nuclear energy it is also significant to look at the cons of this form of energy especially in line with the effects it causes to the environment. Precautionary measures are taken in nuclear power plants but that alone is not a guarantee that accidents won’t occur. There was a nuclear disaster that hit Chernobyl, Ukraine back in 1986 when fire melted down core of the reactor. This led to the release of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere and this accident is said to have caused 15 instant deaths and an estimated 15,000 people later died due to the environmental pollution after exposure of the radiations. An accident at a nuclear power plant can cause massive damage to the environment and this is a major concern to ponder on when setting up a nuclear power plant.

Secondly, nuclear energy production results into increased rems into the atmosphere. The external environment release rems into the atmosphere via background radiation and about 200 rems are received per person in a year. Assuming that all our energy would come from nuclear energy, this will further lead to an increase of about 0.2 of milirem annually. Radiation doses cause radiation sicknesses, cancer, and genetic mutilation if an individual is exposed to 200 rems at a go. Lastly, nuclear energy use causes dereliction problems. When uranium-235 is fissioned, there are byproducts that remain radioactive for thousands of years. This, therefore, means that mechanisms have to be put in place to ensure that they are disposed of till the time comes when there radioactivity is lost. To achieve this objective, underground dump site have been sunk to contain these elements but the rate at which they are filled is so fast that it is not possible to continue with the production of nuclear energy for a considerable period. “Many of these temporary storage facilities are running out of space. In the US, some ponds are so densely packed that the fuel rods have to be separated by neutron-absorbing boron panels to prevent the spent fuel from restarting a chain reaction,” (McLeish, 2007). There would be massive storage facilities that would be required for that and this is great impedance to the production of nuclear energy. In addition, transportation of such wastes is risky given that there could be other unforeseen variables that may interfere with the containment facility.

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In the discussion above, we have sampled three cons and three pros and this scenario makes it difficult to give a verdict on whether the use of nuclear energy should be encouraged or discouraged. There are risky factors involved in adopting nuclear technology for production of energy that may lead to massive deaths and environmental pollution. Moreover, nuclear technology can be used to produce nuclear weapons which are a disaster and threat to human survival. The current stand-off between America and Iran in regard to use of nuclear technology has caused tension in the diplomatic ties between the two nations. America wants the Iranian nuclear plants be inspected by the United Nations for a possibility that Iran could be involved in the making of nuclear weapons. All these risks are pertaining to nuclear technology/nuclear energy. On the other hand, the world fossil fuel reserves are becoming exhausted with time and given the amount of carbon emission released into the atmosphere as a result of use of fossil fuels, finding an alternative source of energy is inevitable. I would therefore advocate for nuclear energy production amid these concerns provided that the negative eventualities can all be eliminated.

An argument on Wind Energy

Wind power is generated by converting wind energy to other forms of energy that can be used more appropriately; for instance, electricity. Conversion of wind to other forms of energy is done via use of turbines whereas to convert wind to electric energy, electrical generators are used. For quite sometime wind energy has been used for agricultural and rural uses by the help of windmills. In the modern time however, wind energy is finding its use in production of electricity given the challenges posed by use of fossil fuels. Spain, Germany, Denmark, and The US among other nations have embraced the use of wind energy and today it is the widely used form of green energy in the world over. This technology is appropriate in places with 10mph wind speed.

Wind energy is beneficial to us due to its renewability and availability. Wind energy is evenly distributed in the world, it is cheap, and more importantly is that it is non-toxic; hence reduced toxic gas emission into the atmosphere. The cost of producing wind energy keeps getting cheaper as a result of new technologies that are being developed. It is forecasted that wind energy production will soon become the cheapest mode of energy creation in large scale. It is not only the cost factor that gives wind energy popularity but also the fact that it is curbing environmental degradation because it diminishes greenhouse gas emissions. Another advantage of wind energy is that it is a non-pollutant and permanently available. It is perceived that if all the wind energy is properly harnessed, the world would produce ten folds the amount of energy used today. This will be a real answer to dependency on fossil fuel energy whose supply depends on diplomatic ties between/among nations.

Discount

In the contrary, wind energy has been faulted due to some aspects of its production that dampens its popularity. Though the cost of producing wind energy is cheap, meaningful generation of wind power require use of turbines. “Though wind power is non-polluting, the turbines may create a lot of noise, which indirectly contributes to noise pollution,” (D’Silva, 2010). Also, environmental factors determine availability of wind power and at some instances, wind source from where plant is set may be far away from where it is being utilized. This may pose economical challenges in regard to cost of setting up substations and rolling out transmission lines.

From the discussion above it is evident that wind energy is more beneficial to the environment than it is a contributor to its depletion. Despite the few disadvantages that wind energy has: noise pollution and unavailability at some instances, wind energy is green, cheap and readily available to all people across the globe. With its potential of being sole energy source for mankind survival, if properly harnessed, wind energy is the only remedy to our environmental challenges. I would therefore urge our leaders, researchers, technologists to work together is realizing this dream and to conserve and sustain the environment for future generations.

Pros and Cons of Biomass Energy

The idea of biomass energy has been in use for a very long time dating back to the eras of our forefathers. Biomass energy comes from decomposed organic wastes from plants and animals with carbon being the main component of biomass energy. Today biomass energy is used more abundantly and for this kind of use, there are pros and cons of this technology. Biomass is an economic form of energy with a number of pros. To begin with, biomass is a renewable form of energy and this means it can be environmentally sustained. The products of biomass production include biofuel and biogas which in turn can be used to generate electricity and heat energies. Biomass technology helps in solid waste utilization besides its resources being readily available. “Incineration of biological wastes everyday cuts down the levels of expulsion of carbon into the atmosphere. Thus, it maintains an ecological balance of carbon present in the environment,” (Ghosh, 2010).

On the other end biomass energy has its own shortcomings as discussed herein. Firstly, the production of biomass energy results in emission of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Methane and carbon dioxide are responsible for the depletion of ozone layer leading to global warming. Nitrous oxide if released into the atmosphere mixes with rain to form acid rains which corrode buildings. Another disadvantage of biomass energy is that ethanol is produced during its production and this may increase the level of nitrogen oxide in the air. Finally the whole processes of recycling wastes that are used in biomass production require a lot of water that could be unavailable at times. Though this form of energy is not all that dependable in meeting world energy needs, it can be used to substitute fossil fuel whose reserves keep getting smaller and smaller.

In conclusion therefore it is evident that Easton’s book gives various argumentative topics that are debatable in relation to environmental issues facing the world. Reliance on fossil fuel use is not only an environmental concern but it also calls on development of other forms of energy. Alternatives of fossil fuel energy are available and so we need to develop these alternative sources in order to curb overdependence on use of fossil fuels.