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Progress and the Looming Energy Catastrophe: A Way Out

Energy consumption is driven by many factors but mostly it is guided by the growing consumer culture sweeping the world. Just look at more affluent countries; they have more means than their third-world counterparts to buy various goods and this correlates to the amount of energy they consume. The United States alone has a population that represents less than 5 percent of the world and yet it consumes 25 percent of the globe’s reserves. With the world using 15 terawatts of total power, it’s hard to ignore the threat of an energy catastrophe. After all, the world is finite. It’s a good thing then that energy conservation challenges are being identified, proving that the international community is taking action albeit slowly.

 

Putting the problem into perspective

When searches related to energy challenges crop up, many of the concerns that have been mentioned will be related to the use of power for electricity. What a lot of people don’t realize is that renewable energy challenges are also brought about by the use of power resources as materials in everyday products, like plastics, tires, crayons. Not to mention that power is also consumed not just in making these products but in packaging them as well and having them delivered to stores where you can buy them. Power consumption is in everything everyone does so the problem is bigger than what it normally appears. Because of this, a heightened awareness about ways to overcome energy disaster is in order.

 

The irony in the looming catastrophe

More than just making fuels cleaner and more sustainable, mitigating the consequences of power consumption is also about taking an energy breakthrough and actually using it, most especially for the benefit of the poorest nations in the world. For while it would seem that the world has been using way too much power for its own good, there are still parts of the globe that don’t receive enough. In fact, some areas don’t have power at all, totaling to more than 1.3 billion people or close to 20 percent of the population of the world. The International Energy Agency estimates that it would cost 48 billion dollars every year to have universal access in place by 2030. That sounds like a lot of money but that translates to just 3 percent of what experts are expecting to be invested in projects anyway all over the world in the coming years. These projects cost a lot of money so the problem isn’t really about not having the financial strength to implement changes that would pave ways to overcome energy catastrophe. It’s more of that those in power don’t realize (or simply don’t want to acknowledge) that the single best way to lift people out of pervasive poverty is to provide access to power.

 

The sliver of hope in nuclear

Though nuclear power holds a lot of potential in addressing a power crisis, it poses a lot of risk to use, what with radioactive waste a massive threat to the environment. But if radioactive waste can be properly disposed of to promote green living benefits, maybe even environmentalists can get behind the idea of using nuclear power. This is the hope that is fueling research on an element called californium. Discovered in the 1950s, this little-known element may just have what it takes to properly store radioactive waste and maybe even recycle it into fuel. Researchers from the Florida State University found out that californium resists radiation damage, bonding to and separating into other materials and even changing the structure of materials it surrounds. According to the research, the sliver of hope in the nuclear lies in making it possible to separate different elements in radioactive waste to allow californium recycle byproducts that power plants can use as fuel.

 

When renewable goes independent

One of the solar energy challenges critics have been claiming is that resources like sun and wind can only provide intermittent power so they still require the use of fossil fuel power plants to back them up and make the use of renewable energy viable. German engineers at Kassel’s Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology beg to differ though. According to their research, combining the output produced by several wind, biogas, and solar power plants will provide the grid with stable power enough to ensure 24-hour operations without blackouts. Having rejected nuclear power, Germany is not unfamiliar with solar and wind energy challenges since it has been investing heavily in renewable resources. The country boasts of a demanding industrial sector so it knows how important stable power is. Given the results of the research, Germany proves that progress and green living need not clash.

 

The power of the future

Looking at condos in key cities makes you appreciate how far society and technology has come, thriving with progress to achieve goals that have never been met before. But progress always comes with a price and more often than not the environment is on the losing end. It shouldn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way if there was more emphasis on energy efficient design. Realizing the impact of green architectural design is great but the principles of energy efficient home design should be applied to almost everything because everything is connected to power consumption. Brushing up on an energy thesaurus is great, but more is required. Still, all is not lost. When there’s a will, there will be a way.

 

Credit Anna Rodriquez on Google+

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