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The Pros And Cons Of Ethanol As A Renewable Source Of Energy

5969 words - 24 pages

I. Introduction

One of the most hotly contested debates in today’s realm of environmental concern is how to secure energy for the maintenance and improvement of quality of life in the future. To date, humanity has been blessed with plentiful reserves of cheap crude oil, which can be refined into a multitude of items that make the lives of many so convenient—gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, plastics, and fertilizers. In some parts of the world, these technologies merely facilitate survival. But concern over what happens when these supplies dwindle is universal. Science has revealed that oil will not last forever at the rate it is being consumed. Therefore, alternatives must be developed that can provide sustainable levels of energy well into humanity’s future. We are entering a world in which, energy-speaking, renewable is the name of the game.

In addition to facilitating the weaning of humans from fossil fuels, renewable energy poses many environmental benefits because renewable means clean. Most scientists will argue that, though the degree to which we benefit might be speculative, human and environmental welfare will increase with tapping of renewable energy sources. If modern science is in any way accurate, using clean and renewable energy would result in better air quality, curbing of climate change and the Greenhouse Effect, and perhaps even the luxury of supplying most or all of our energy domestically. This means that countries like the U.S. would stand heavily resistant to both the ramifications of a global energy crisis and to international political tensions surrounding the trading of oil. Despite its being more expensive, there is much to be gained from renewable energy.

Where We Stand On Energy

As such tensions mount, the decision of how to phase out fossil fuel and introduce renewable sources is becoming more imperative. Fossil fuel consumption in the United States is colossal. In Colorado, the average household uses 70 million Btu of energy from natural gas and 150 million Btu from gasoline in 2000. (Energy Information Administration) That’s around 1,320 gallons of gas per household, per year. (US EPA) In that same year, multiply that by Colorado’s 1,658,238 households (US Census Bureau) and find that the state’s residential sector consumed around 2,188,874,160 gallons of gas at the turn of the century. Per capita, Colorado ranks just 36th amongst the states in energy consumption. (Energy Information Administration)

This does not begin to tell the whole story. On the whole, keeping with Colorado as an example, we in this state used 1.35 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2003, about 1.4% of the U.S. 98.6 quadrillion Btu, with just over 2% coming from renewable sources. Also in 2003, the world was calculated as using about 421 quadrillion Btu of energy (around 6% coming from renewables). (EIA Energy Outlook) The U.S. produces less than a fifth of this. (USGS) Ever hear...

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