Environmental Impact of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels have been a widely used source of energy every since the Industrial Revolution just before the dawn of the 20th century. Fossil fuels are relatively easy to use to generate energy because they only require a simple direct combustion. However, a problem with fossil fuels is their environmental impact. Not only does their excavation from the ground significantly alter the environment, but their combustion leads to a great deal of air pollution. Fossil and nuclear plants are capable of producing significant amounts of power. Plants in the gigawatt (billions of watts) range are common.
Modern cities need large amounts of reliable electricity, more than what many alternative sources can currently deliver. Businesses should educate people about what benefits they can get out of nuclear versus fossil fuels. One of the leading and biggest Corporations in nuclear filed is Exelon Corporation. The Exelon Corporation could educate citizens of the United States about the need to get off fossil fuels, the relative improvement begot from nuclear and counter society’s misconceptions on the dangers of nuclear energy.
Background/ Context of Issue. The cost for building and operating a power plant is lower for fossil fuels. This remains true even though environmental concerns have added to their costs. For the short term, these fuels are the easiest to produce. Nuclear fuel, though much less of it is needed, requires significant, costly refinement to bring the ores to useful purity. At the end of its productive life, a nuclear plant must be decommissioned, a costly process. We burn fossil fuels to get energy from them. This is called combustion. Technically, the products of combustion are carbon dioxide and water.

But with most fuels combustion is incomplete. Ashes escape into the air or accumulate in the furnace, requiring disposal. In 2009, carbon dioxide is seen as a major factor in global warming. Spent fuel nuclear fuel rods, no longer able to make power, are still highly radioactive. They must be carefully stored for at least hundreds of years. Interstate shipments of radioactive wastes are controversial; no one wants the potential for nuclear accidents in their home state. Nuclear power has seen two major applications: large, stationary electric ower plants and propulsion for naval vessels. The heavy shielding around a reactor limits other uses. Nuclear aircraft engines and other applications have been explored, but the heaviness of the reactor and the chance of contamination from accidents keep these from serious consideration. Fossil fuels are used in things as small as lighters and big as power plants. In liquid form, they can be conveniently stored and distributed. Hazards such as toxicity and flammability exist but don’t pose long-term problems the same as nuclear fuels do.
Reserves entail many complex factors. Geologists can determine the extent of proven reserves, though these can be over- or understated for political reasons. New finds are reported frequently. Consumption, which determines how long reserves will, last, is variable, driven by economic conditions. At current rates of use, the world has enough coal for 200 years, oil for 40 years and natural gas for 60 years. Uranium reserves are good for 50 years, though technologies such as breeder reactors can, in theory, stretch that to more than 1,000.
Currently, the United States and most of the world is locked into what could be called the fossil fuel economy. Our automobiles, trains and planes are fueled almost exclusively by petroleum products like gasoline and diesel. A huge percentage of our power plants use oil, natural gas and coal for their fuel. If the flow of fossil fuels to the United States were ever cut off, the economy would come to a halt. There would be no way to transport the products that factories produce. There would be no way for people to drive to work. The whole economy, and in fact the whole of western society, currently depends on fossil fuels.
While fossil fuels have played an important role in getting society to the point it is at today, there are four big problems that fossil fuels create: Air pollution – When cars burn gasoline, they would ideally burn it perfectly and create nothing but carbon dioxide and water in their exhaust. Unfortunately, the internal combustion engine is not perfect. In the process of burning the gasoline, it also produces: * Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas * Nitrogen oxides, the main source of urban smog * Unburned hydrocarbons, the main source of urban ozone Catalytic converters eliminate much of this pollution, but they aren’t perfect.
Air pollution from cars and power plants is a real problem in big cities. It is bad enough now that, in the summer, many cities have dangerous levels of ozone in the air. Environmental pollution – The process of transporting and storing oil has a big impact on the environment whenever something goes wrong. An oil spill, pipeline explosion or well fire can create a huge mess. The Exxon Valdez spill is the best known example of the problem, but minor spills happen constantly. Global warming – When you burn a gallon of gas in your car, you emit about 5 pounds (2. 3 kg) of carbon into the atmosphere.
If it were solid carbon, it would be extremely noticeable — it would be like throwing a 5-pound bag of sugar out the window of your car for every gallon of gas burned. But because the 5 pounds of carbon comes out as an invisible gas, carbon dioxide, most of us are oblivious to it. The carbon dioxide coming out of every car’s tailpipe is a greenhouse gas that is slowly raising the temperature of the planet. The ultimate effects are unknown, but it is a strong possibility that, eventually, there will be dramatic climate changes that affect everyone on the planet.
For example, if the ice caps melt, sea level will rise significantly, flooding and destroying all coastal cities in existence today. That’s a big side effect. Dependence – The United States, and most other countries, cannot produce enough oil to meet demand, so they import it from oil-rich countries. That creates an economic dependence. When Middle East oil producers decide to raise the price of oil, the rest of the world has little choice but to pay the higher price. Stakeholders One of direct stakeholders in this case is The United States government, which monitors nuclear companies through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The NRC regulates reactors through inspection, licensing, and performance assessments. Since 1990s, nuclear build has been efficiently ruled out until the year 2006, following review if the energy policy overturned opposition of the government towards new nuclear. In order to facilitate new nuclear formation, the government has implemented various measures like streaming planning process, making sure that regulations are well equipped in order to pre-license designs regarding new created proposals (World nuclear Association, 2013).
Exelon Corporation is one of the nation’s leading competitive providers of energy with almost $23. 5 billion revenue annually. The company participated in all stages of energy business that is from generation to the competitive sales of energy to transmission and finally to delivery. Exelon provides energy services and products to almost 100,000 public and business sector customers as well as almost one million of residential customers. The company’s employees are usually devoted to safety. In this case, they are highly skilled employees and simultaneously receive training in order to make their safe job practices safer.
Every employee has 100% accountability (Exelon’s, website). Exelon’s commitment towards the environment is essential to their corporate strategy. Their objectives include capitalizing their environment leadership as well as providing safe, clean, affordable and reliable electricity that caters transition of the American to sustainable future energy. However, the company’s early dedication to responsible, low carbon energy venture has enabled it creating advantage to their stakeholders while limiting their impacts towards the environment (Exelon’s website).
Because of the pluralistic society that the United States has, special interest groups can have a large negative impact on nuclear companies by protesting or picketing. Previous Solutions Different ways have been tried to let the public accept the fact that nuclear power resources are better off then fossil fuel resources. Driving electric cars will be one way when we can use renewable energy to charge the cars. United Arab Emirates: One way the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) was able to increase public support for its nuclear power was through a public outreach program.
According to a poll conducted by the research consultancy firm TNS, the ENEC was able to increase public awareness of nuclear power by 13% over last year (Mustafa). The success of ENEC’s public awareness campaign can be seen through the increase of respondents in favor of UAE using nuclear power (Mustafa). The percent of people who supported nuclear power increased from 66% to 82% in one year. The respondents of the poll were so much in favor of nuclear power they are even willing let a plant be built where they live (Mustafa). The USA is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity. * The country’s 104 nuclear reactors produced 821 billion kWh in 2011, over 19% of total electrical output.
There are now 102 units operable and three under construction. * Following a 30-year period in which few new reactors were built, it is expected that 4-6 new units may come on line by 2020, the first of those resulting from 16 licence applications made since mid-2007 to build 24 new nuclear reactors. However, lower gas prices since 2009 have put the economic viability of some of these projects in doubt. * Government policy changes since the late 1990s have helped pave the way for significant growth in nuclear capacity. Government and industry are working closely on expedited approval for construction and new plant designs. Recommendations We advise using edification about nuclear power to transmit the pros of nuclear power and make it a further generally suitable energy and educate populace about it.
Media (Discovery channel & NAT GEO) is a great tool to give awareness about the benefits of nuclear power over fossil fuels and rebuild nuclear powers reputation. Nuclear is power is safer than other resources but it is seemingly as dangerous. Learning programs have raised knowledge about nuclear power and results in approval like in the United Arab Emirates. We also suggest having stakeholder seminar discussions and citizens’ panels like other developed nations. Stakeholders get empowered when they are involved in decision making. Conclusion We can conclude that replacing the petroleum fuel used in the entire fleet of U.
S. vehicles with ethanol and biodiesel in the next four years, even in blended form would significantly, though temporarily reduce CO2 emissions. This change would replace the exponential growth rate of CO2emissions with a linear one which continues to be problematic because it is still consistently increasing. Furthermore, this drastic measure would not sufficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions to permanently curb global warming. Thus, using alternative fuels for transportation ought to be supplemented with other significant changes. This does not even take nto account the economic, environmental and moral problems and questions which arise in the shift from the production and transportation of traditional petroleum fuels to biofuels. And, of course, this study has been limited to the United States, which contributes a small (though significant) percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, ethanol and biodiesel are environmentally responsible alternatives to petroleum-based gasoline and diesel, and are a good transitional option in what needs to be global effort in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

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