It's Time to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels to Environmentally Friendly Energy Sources
Fossil fuels, the main fuel for firing power stations for electricity, heating homes, and providing fuel for transport, have been used for many years. Despite their relative inexpensiveness, fossil fuels have major drawbacks. They introduce a myriad of negative implications including environmental degradation, global warming, acid rain, health problems, and ecosystem destruction. Even though fossil fuels are cheaper today than renewable sources of energy, it is well worth spending the extra money on these more environmentally friendly types of energy. After all, who wants to live on an unhealthy planet?
The main component of fossil fuels are hydrocarbons. While burning hydrocarbons, hazardous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are emitted into the atmosphere (Walker). Upon combustion of sulfurous coals and fuel oils in power plants, sulfur dioxide is released. SO2 has negative effects on vegetation, animals, and people. It causes reduced growth in plants and animals, while leading to increases in chronic respiratory diseases, exacerbation of asthma, and smarting of the nose and mouth in humans. If SO2 is coupled with nitroxides (NOX) and ammonia (NH3), acidification of soils and water could result (Hemsley-Flint).
Nitroxides originate mainly from vehicle emissions and to a lesser extent, power generation. NOX can lead to acidification problems when the nitric acid gets dissolved in groundwater. Eutrophication results when massive amounts of nitrogen enter groundwater and leave many bodies of water lifeless (Hemsley-Flint). In addition, nitroxides can create smog, aggravate respiratory infections, and suppress plant growth (Walker).
Because of its ability to bind to hemoglobin in blood, carbon monoxide from vehicle emissions can be especially dangerous. Exposure can lead to dizziness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, birth defects, and even death by suffocation. The burning of fossil fuels can cause particulate matter to be released into the atmosphere. This can cause irritation of the tissue of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. (Walker).
Carbon dioxide is the leading cause of the greenhouse effect. Mean global temperatures have risen between 0.2 and 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade as a result of carbon dioxide and the other...