They blocked my email at school so now I am using livejournal and instead of just setting this entry to private, I am giving you all the chance to read over my almost finished paper. If you do end up bordly reading through it's pages, let me know what you think and if you have any sugestions!
No matter how anyone looks at it, over the next few decades the United States is going to have to make some serious changes in the way they use resources. “Oil is a resource of finite quantity. The amount we can extract from the ground daily will eventually peak and decline… A recent study from the Energy Watch Group states that the world’s oil production peaked in 2006” (Slone). Of course the specific year of 2006 is debatable, but it is right about in the middle of other estimates found. If this is the case then year 2006 is sitting on the top of a bell curve showing a downward slope going both into the past and into the future. In other words, oil production should slow down at the same rate at which it had once grown. ( ) Considering the extreme dependency on oil, as well as an increasing world population, people are in a position where change is absolutely necessary. It is pretty well known that “For more than 100 years, the industrialized world’s primary source of energy has been fossil fuels: petroleum, natural gas, and coal” (“Fossil Fuels”). Considering this fact, the conclusion can be made that oil production will slow to nearly a standstill within 100 years of the year 2006. Between now and then people will go through a huge decline in one of their most valuable resources.
Every country in the world uses oil to some extent but the United States is at the biggest disadvantage because of America’s huge oil consumption. It is an unfortunate fact that “The United States, with just under 5 percent of the world’s population, uses nearly 30 percent of the global total consumption” (“Fossil Fuels”). The United States is addicted to the fast working, high energy oil. Perhaps the best method to prevent catastrophe is to start reducing oil consumption as soon as possible. Alternatives such as solar and wind power will help to make the change, but there is another source which is rarely looked at seriously, known as human energy. Human energy is the energy which could be harnessed from a person’s every day motion using piezoelectric crystals, and other more conventional types of power harnessing such as fly wheels. Fossil fuels are a finite energy source and everyone must invest in the future of renewable energy sources including knowledge of products and human energy through tax subsidies in order to reduce the need of fossil fuels.
When fossil fuels first started being used, they were found to be far more efficient when burned for energy than wood or other fuels. Thus, as countries develop they began using the new, more efficient product, which in turn caused a mass decline in the amount of available fossil fuels. There is hardly a nation which does not use fossil fuel. Although it is impossible to predict exactly what might happen when the world runs out of oil there are many horror stories. Some say that peak oil will surely lead to “…the end of civilization as we know it” (Britt).Others; perhaps more reasonably, compare the event of peak oil to the happenings in 1973. Many have forgotten the conflict with OPEC countries which left us without oil for a short time. “According to some psychologists, it sometimes takes an emergency to get people to think and act” (“Energy: Running on ‘Empty’?”). This same article speaks of the crisis in the 1973 when OPEC countries stopped selling oil to the United States because of its support to Israel. At that time the US started to find alternative energy sources to be of great help and explored new opportunities until the crisis ended in the 1980s. Unfortunately, so did the drive behind America’s search for alternative power.
Of course there are still people who attempt to solve the problem of dependence of fossil fuels from the renewable energies such as solar, water, and wind power to alternative fuel including biomass, bio-diesel, and ethanol. Each has been successful in its own way, but many have flaws. Ethanol for example seems like a perfect source of energy, but looking deeper, one finds the results of growing too much corn for ethanol have created shortage of water in the aquifers or underground water sources in the United States. Incidentally it has also raised the price of many foods including corn in Mexico, which has been a cheap staple food for centuries. Hydro-power has caused its own set of problems for river life such as salmon. Of course, some of these methods are working very well. Carpooling systems for example have been very successful in helping to make the must of the fossil fuels which we do have.
Olympic Renewables owner Norm Nelson said in an interview “I think that here in Washington we should have more research on ocean and wave energy” (Nelson). He mentioned that some methods may have less impact then others on the environment. When asked about the benefits of solar power he responded saying that “The benefit is that they are, for intensive purposes, limitless. Solar power is a long term solution. The sun will be shining for a very long time and when it stops shining we will have other things to worry about” (Nelson). There are a lot of things that can be done to decrease the amount of fossil fuels needed as well as to decrease use of the harmful alternative energy options. Some of these solutions are possible at an individual level while others require a large group of people in order to be successful. As individuals, for example, people can support designers of human energy harnessing devices.
As a community it would be possible provide a system of rentable gear such as bicycles. Another idea would be to have rentable backpacks which would collect power from a hiker or school student as they walk. Phillip Ball, a writer for Nature News describes a design for a power generating backpack. “The pack, which weighs about 20-38 kg depending how much power you need, generated up to 7.4 watts of power when tested on a treadmill. That’s enough to keep your GPS locator and a head–lamp running indefinitely in the wilderness” (Ball). Although this particular pack was designed for hikers or solders, it could potentially be useful in a system as a durable backpack which a student could rent for a year of school in order to charge laptop batteries, cell phones, or music players. It may be expensive for a while so families who can afford them might buy their own, but for those families who can not, there could be a system of renting the packs for a small fee from there school.
On a state-wide level, people can improve public transportation. Needless to say, it would be difficult to utilize human energy for mass transportation but there have been many experiments even with man powered flying devices. One such experiment was conducted by a man named “Kanellopoulos [who] flew [a human powered airplane named] ‘Daedalus 88’ for 3 hours and 54 minutes across the Aegean Sea between Crete and Santorini, a distance of 74 miles” (Ocko). This is an awesome feat and one which is a major step forward in the realm of human energy.
These human energy harnessing devices should be used whenever they can be, not only as a way to support renewable energy but also as a way to save money. As people would be generating a large amount of their own energy, there would be a smaller electricity bill and less gas used if people continue work on alternative human powered transportation.
At a national level, people can improve laws which would provide incentive to use renewable energy. Currently there are “tax credits for energy derived from renewable sources…wind, biomass, landfills, trash combustion facilities and the like. Lawmakers will also add a new category: Marine renewables such as waves and tides” (“Energy legislation…”). Those tax credits should be extended even further onto human energy for those business owners who sell human energy products. Currently oil companies are receiving huge tax cuts while only small amounts are allowed to alternative energy companies and users. George Bush has created tax cuts where “$27 billion would go to the coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power industries. Just $7 billion is earmarked for energy-efficiency and conservation programs” (Kriz). One solution is to decrease tax cuts for fossil fuels almost completely. The theory would be to start slowly so that the gas prices wouldn’t skyrocket immediately but slowly increase as time went on until eventually the government would require an inflated tax rate for imports of oil. They would use the saved money to grant tax breaks to the alternative energies mentioned above as well as for human energy harnessing.
As a result, at a global level, power will be taken from those who have oil and be given to those who have the genius to create and produce new forms of electricity. At a speech given by Dr. Subroto, the Secretary General of the Organization of the petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is known to have said that, “OPEC Member Countries have never sought confrontation with this great nation [US]” (Subroto). Compare this statement to the fact that OPEC cut off the supply of fossil fuels in order to confront us on the issue of Israel. In an area so fragile and full of controversy, it can not be guarantied even as long as currently predicted. “America is importing more and more oil each year - much of it from the world's most unfriendly or unstable regions. We spend more than $200,000 per minute -- $13 million per hour -- on foreign oil, and more than $25 billion a year on Persian Gulf imports alone” (“Safe, Strong…”). If the figures are added up, this comes to approximately $112,310,000,000 per year purely on imported oil. With the use of alternative energy, the United States can cut that amount down severely.
This is a time when oil exporting countries are unreliable and so is there source of oil. The problem is severe. There is not much time to develop an alternative energy landing spot as the world comes down the steep ridge of oil dependency. There are many ways to do this and one of those ways is to develop human energy.
There are major benefits to using devices for human energy harnessing. Some would have medical benefits. For one thing “…the harvester could be used to power pacemakers or implanted insulin pumps. It could also be used to help move robotic limbs” (“Harnessing…”). The use of devices which require human movement to create power could help solve the problem of obesity in the United States. Another benefit, naturally, is the electricity which can be gained from these devices and used for anything from a cell phone, computer, or, with more research, even larger devices. “When we walk along a pavement, 8 watts of energy is wasted – absorbed by the ground – with each heel” (“Man Power”). It is believed that approximately 1/3 of that energy could be harvested with the technology of today.
As a human being on this planet, anyone can be part of the solution. What people should do is to conserve energy and ride a bike whenever they can. Incidentally this particular aspect of human energy is very popular. Bikes are more than twice as popular as cars as a matter of fact. “In 2003, Global Production of Bicycles hit 105,000,000—two-and-a-half times the record 42,000,000 cars produced” (Mygatt). This is a beacon of hope for those driving to solve this issue.
At the conclusion of his interview, Norm Nelson, owner of Olympic Renewables said “My biggest thing is just that we use less. The question shouldn’t be how to make more but how can we use less” (Nelson). All the same, he believes that research for alternative energy is absolutely worth while. Perhaps it is just a way to ease society into a low-power lifestyle but all the same there are great things in store for the world in the future whether or not people start developing human energy early on. If the process was to start now then the world and especially the US would be prepared for when fossil fuels run out. Even if it does take an emergency to get people acting, eventually they will have to make some changes. Picture a world in which every floor converts footsteps into electricity. “Think of Victoria train station. In one rush hour period there are 34,000 people walking through that space. There are many kilowatts of energy that we could be harvesting and ploughing back into low-power circuits.” (Bradbury) Go even further and imagine the high schools full of power generating backpacks and floors. Even clothes could have fibers that when bent would generate electricity. “…fabric that generates its own power using piezoelectric fibers woven into frequently moving joints such as elbows and knees” (Bradbury). It is really quite beautiful in its simplicity. It will always be a renewable energy because as long as there are humans to use energy, there will always be humans around to generate it.