America Must Find Alternative Fuel Sources

Spring 2012
Experience as Evidence Essays

Article 1 of 16

Audience Analysis

Those interested in this paper may consist of American lawmakers, policymakers, scientists, environmentalists, and economists. These professionals are likely highly educated and are invested in the future of the United States economy and environment. These economists and lawmakers are aware that gas prices are too high and many already feel the need to find alternative-fuel sources. Some lawmakers, environmentalists, and economists in this intended audience may be in limbo about deciding whether it is necessary or not to find alternative fuel but remain objective.  A secondary audience would consist of all consumers who are tired of paying high gas prices and likely own a vehicle.

Imagine a world deprived of its non-renewable resources. Abandoned oil extraction sites and desolate roads laden with weeds protruding through the cracks, a world where fossil fuels are no longer available. Imagine what this world with scarce fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas (United States Department of Energy, 2011) would mean for Americans. Moreover, picture the United States even more dependent on foreign countries to get said fossil fuels, paying whatever price is asked or possibly without the ability to buy oil at all.  Say goodbye to being able to put gasoline in your car and drive to work. Non-renewable resources, like oil, are limited and take millions of years to create and yet Americans power more than 85% of our energy needs with these fossil fuels (U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2011). It would be favorable for America to find a natural and unlimited alternative to fuel instead of depending on and depleting all of our natural fossil fuels and continuing to pollute the earth.

There are natural resources that are limited, natural resources that are unlimited, and natural resources that are renewable. Limited natural resources are usually non-renewable resources, which means they cannot be created and take lifetimes to regenerate. Unlimited resources are elements that are abundant and are produced or available constantly such as sunlight. Other natural resources such as trees are renewable resources because more can be planted. America could benefit from utilizing these unlimited resources for alternative fuel sources, such as using energy created by the sun, the wind, and hydrogen to name a few. Sources such as these would result in a low cost to make and use energy as many of these alternative fuel sources are natural and plentiful. One fuel source, solar power, could deliver energy to more than one billion people by 2020 and satisfy 26% percent of global energy needs by 2040 (McLamb).Other sources of alternative energy that could be used are found in renewable natural sources, such as trees, which could be burned and then replaced for energy. In addition, some dams create hydroelectric power made primarily from biomass energy (McLamb). Biomass energy is anything renewable in a short amount of time thus producing energy and requiring less energy to create and harvest (Union of Concerned Scientists). Biomass energy sources may include dead trees, the sun, wind, and water. These natural elements are examples of potential alternative fuel sources that would not deplete our natural resources and would help our environment by reducing pollution.

If we don’t deplete our natural resources, they will be around for millions of years. Natural resources have many benefits for our environment. Trees, for example, absorb carbon dioxide (Walsh, 2007), a greenhouse gas which, according to The Environmental Literacy Council, can cause ozone destruction and lead to global warming (1). Planting more trees would not only directly help our environment, but use of trees as fuel could eliminate our need to use fossil fuels. Using non-renewable resources, namely fossil fuels for vehicle oil, lead to the depletion of something we can never get back in our lifetimes. In addition, to obtain these fossil fuels we have to drill into the earth, damaging habitats, and releasing toxins also known as emissions, or air pollutants consisting of gas and particles that are discharged largely by cars and power plants. For example, to get the energy from fossil fuels, they must be burned, and in this process damaging emissions are released into the atmosphere. When these emissions, consisting of an overabundance of the pollutants sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon, come together they can form acid rain—another negative consequence on the environment (Environmental Literacy Council). Not only does using oil for fuel create pollution directly from vehicle exhaust, the process to make this oil also creates pollution. All of this man-made pollution has to exist somewhere; and it exists in America.

America is our home. Would you live in your house if it was full of pollutants, toxins, smog and was slowly deteriorating? You would probably condemn the house and move out but in the real world, Americans cannot just find a new country or planet when the Earth has been polluted beyond existence. Pollution is a daunting reality for America, yet many people choose to ignore it. There are other countries without drinkable water, nevertheless here in America 40% of rivers and 46% of lakes are too polluted for swimming, fishing, or aquatic life (Dosomething.org, 2011). Americans are taking their home for granted. One example of this negligence is demonstrated by motor vehicle use as cars are one of the largest sources of potential pollutant carbon monoxide. We are the ones driving these vehicles and releasing emissions. While emissions aren’t always toxic, many such as carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide can indeed still be harmful (Environmental Protection Agency, 2011).  Furthermore, vehicle exhaust emits about 60% of carbon monoxide emissions, according to the volunteers at the organization Dosomething.org (1).  This cannot continue to happen-- for the sake of our country, and the well-being of our planet.

Americans would benefit from pursuing a realistic change and finding an alternative to oil, especially for motor vehicles. An eco-friendly change that uses low-cost natural energy would benefit our environment by decreasing our use of fossil fuels, and emissions, while also stemming positive personal effects on Americans’ health and finances such as improved health from reduction of air toxins and more money in our pockets. Low-cost natural energy is available. In fact, it is abundant. Unlimited resources are everywhere and should be used to power vehicles in place of oil. A good place to start achieving this proposal is by searching for an effective alternative fuel source to replace gasoline. According to the United States Department of Energy, close to two-thirds of our electricity and nearly all of U.S. transportation fuels rely on non-renewable fossil fuels (1). In other words, by finding an alternative fuel source for vehicles, America can lessen our dependency on fossil fuels and allow the Earth to replenish its natural resources, while also cutting back on pollution. Finding an alternative fuel source, such as using solar energy, would also have personal progressive effects for consumers because they would no longer have to pay for gasoline. Interestingly, however, today’s high gas prices can have a positive effect on the environment. USA Today findings have shown that many Americans are driving less and utilizing other forms of transportation (Nasser and Overberg, 1). These Americans are choosing to walk, carpool, bicycle, and use public transportation. This revolution due to high gas prices set the health of the environment in the right direction, but this change has not proved to be permanent. Permanent, effective, and favorable changes need to be made by seeking a more substantial alternative fuel source that would improve the United States’ environment by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, thus reducing emissions. To elaborate, finding and utilizing an alternative natural fuel source would lower pollution because pollutants from driving, such as vehicle exhaust emissions, would be diminished drastically. In addition, a change to something copious and unlimited in resources would allow us to lessen our addiction and reliance on foreign oil and strengthen the United States economy.

Many experts have already made suggestions as to fixing our pollution problem regarding oil. Aspen Ski Company director of environmental management, Auden Schendler states that if we, as humans, can make a habit out of reducing emissions we may be on the right track to solve our issues with the environment and climate suggesting that making emission reduction a business by pricing carbon dioxide emissions would be beneficial (1). This is known as a cap-and-trade and means that if people are creating too many emissions, they will have to pay a literal price as a consequence. Paying for emissions acts as a deterrent to pollution because people would not want to pay (Schendler, 2006). On the other hand, Dr. Gal Luft, an executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and co-founder of Set America Free Coalition, an alliance to reduce the United States’ dependency on foreign oil, argues that current gas taxes and caps are not useful, and our energy would be better spent directly working on new technology, cars, fuel choice etc (1). While we can applaud both of their efforts to tackle the oil dilemma, Luft appears to be looking at the bigger issue when addressing pollution. Yes, Schendler’s solution does have its benefits; however it would be time-consuming and would still allow emissions to pollute the Earth. Luft has the right idea that America should work on new technology and fuel choice, specifically, as the primary solution to pollution. A new alternative to gas, preferably a natural one stemming from unlimited resources, would eliminate excess carbon dioxide emissions, lowering pollution, and thus helping the environment.

So it has been established that an alternative fuel source can provide many benefits to the Earth, mainly lowering pollution and emissions which improve the state of the environment. But, what does an alternative fuel source do for the United States’ economy? For one, our dependence on foreign oil is not good for us as a nation. We are subject to the prices and availability extended to us by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC consists of many Islamic nations, and primarily features governments that are dictatorships (OPEC). R. James Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence in the Central Intelligence Agency and foreign policy specialist, asserts that not only does oil cause environmental problems with carcinogenic (cancerous) emissions, the use of foreign oil is a huge factor in the weakening of our American dollar (1). The decline of the dollar for Americans means that essentially our money has less worth, which also affects our trade and interaction with other countries. Poor trade with other countries can be particularly devastating for our economy. In 2009, The Washington Post reported that the American dollar’s value had dropped 18 percent against the euro in the past 12 months, and more than 40 percent against the South African rand and Australian dollar (1). The euro, particularly, is a widely used monetary unit and America has nothing to gain by having the dollar worth less in comparison. R. James Woolsey would agree that America’s economy would benefit from being an independent nation, especially in terms of oil, and forgoing our addiction with foreign oil would strengthen the American dollar. Woolsey also makes the interesting point that we are relying on dictatorship countries for oil that often are known for teaching violence to children, promoting hatred of other religions, stoning women, and killing homosexuals (1).  It is safe to assume that most people would perceive these actions as wrong.  Americans are essentially at risk of funding these operations and behaviors when purchasing billions in foreign oil. Why is this acceptable? We need to stop supporting autocratic nations, and build our own nation. Finding and using an alternative to gas composed of renewable means would help the U.S. economy and reduce our dependency on foreign countries.

Certain solutions have been brought to light in order to use feasible means to minimize foreign oil dependency. One such solution is along the lines of drilling here in the United States—using domestic oil. This suggestion for a move away from foreign oil has many pros and cons. The main objective of drilling here is that it would lessen our need to seek oil elsewhere. This would create new jobs for many Americans as well as lower the trade deficit (Hargreaves, 2011). However, CNN analyst Steve Hargreaves emphasizes that the United States could not make enough oil to supply the world’s needs. Moreover, Hargreaves argues that domestic oil would not lower gas prices, which many consumers are undoubtedly unhappy with (1).  There have been steps taken to reduce our foreign oil dependency at the government level, as well. In 2005, former President George W. Bush coupled with the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to pass an energy bill that focuses on moving away from foreign oil dependency by domestically producing U.S. energy. With this bill came the idea that the long-term result would be a variety of energy sources that would lessen America’s vulnerability to foreign oil-producing countries (Lancet, 2011).  Critics of the bill argued that it didn’t directly address environmental concerns or lower gas prices, but proponents of the bill stated that it would be a process and would not have instant effects (Lancet, 2011). More recently, President Barack Obama has also called for the end of foreign oil dependence. Obama openly declared that he would end America’s “addiction” to oil and end the dependency on the Middle East within ten years by increasing fuel economy standards, putting one million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, and investing $150 billion towards clean, effective energy efforts (Rusk, 2008). Many critics, such as Stanford University Professor James Sweeney, have claimed that this goal is unrealistic because of the extensive work that would need to be done in such a short amount of time (Rusk, 2008). While this goal is a hefty order, it would be a positive step for the United States to actually make changes to our current oil policies. It is apparent that both former President Bush and President Obama see America’s enslavement to foreign oil as a major threat to our independency as a country and national security and are pushing for an alternative. Now it is time for the entire country of the United States to get on board as well.

Implementing the strategies proposed by President Obama has the potential to be advantageous in lessening U.S. dependency on foreign oil, as would the utilization of domestic oil. However, America needs the best of both worlds, with respect to a healthy environment and an independent nation. In the short term, ideas such as hybrid cars can help decrease pollution in the environment, while domestic drilling can reduce our reliance on foreign oil. But America needs to seek a solution that is beneficial in the long and short term that aids the environment and the economy. This is why it is pertinent that we seek an alternative to fuel altogether. Finding an environmentally friendly way to create energy and run cars would impact our planet positively, and using unlimited renewable resources to do so could prove to be cost effective. Sunlight, water, hydrogen—they are all abundant and free. Harvesting these free unlimited resources to create sustainable energy would make consumers happy and make the Earth healthier. The ability for America to produce this eco-friendly energy would help to declare our independence from fluctuating, unpredictable fuel prices set by foreign nations. In addition, we could stop funding countries that promote violence and hatred (Woolsey) and begin funding our own nation, building a more secure economy. Even more so, the jobs created to make this new energy would also help U.S. economy. Why not take advantage of the unlimited resources around us, and be true innovators? Let’s, as a country, get back to our roots. Roots that lie in building a free nation that is independent from tyranny and control. We cannot stand as an independent nation when we so willingly appear to depend on foreign countries for fuel. We cannot build up our nation, our economy, while simultaneously tearing down our country with pollutants, making our home inhabitable. Using an environmentally safe, American-produced fuel alternative is a must.

It is our responsibility as American consumers, economists, and environmentalists to come together to tackle pollution and foreign oil dependency. We are all guilty of contributing to the pollution and contributing to foreign countries, by purchase of their oil. There are means to create eco-friendly oil alternatives using renewable resources such as wind, hydrogen, and sunlight. We have these elements here in America, thus we have the ability to create our own source of fuel and quit buying oil from other countries. Oil, a fossil fuel, generates pollutants and by manufacturing our own “fuel” created from natural resources we are not only helping out our environment, but also our country. It is time we stop supporting dictatorship countries, and expand the quality of our own country. As journalists at the New Statesman put it “The Stone Age did not end because people ran out of stones. It ended when people found something better. The same is true of oil” (1).  America must leave this metaphorical gas-dependent Stone Age behind and find something better than oil as fuel. An alternative to fuel can be both economically and environmentally constructive, but we must be bold and willing to find and use it, proving once again that we are free and innovative; we’re Americans.

Bibliography

 

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Anderson, Muriel. Higher gas prices will help U.S. solve crisis." USA Today.: Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4.APR. 2011.
This article is most likely written for the general American audience as it was published by USA Today. This article acts more as commentary, though it suggests that higher gas prices are beneficial to the American economy. Ethos is present in the sense that many consumers believe what they read in the news. This article first inspired me to see the other side of high gas prices, the positive aspect. Realizing that high gas prices are good for the environment provoked me to explore the need to get away from oil altogether, which is a primary topic in this paper.

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This chart was used to compare the price of gas in my local area of Annapolis, Maryland. The audience is still intended for all Americans, but this particular data may appeal more to those in the Maryland area. The chart shows an upward trend of the cost of gas with small spikes up and down. This chart provided further insight into just how much the gas price has spiked. While I did not directly use this information for this particular paper, the knowledge obtained from it remained in the back of the mind, as upon seeing the charted increase in gas cost, I was angered that we Americans would continue to pay these outrageous costs set by foreign countries.

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This article seems directed towards an academic audience, specifically Economists and Environmentalists. The author establishes ethos as an expert on environmental topics and discusses possible solutions to reducing emissions. I utilized the information he provided to strengthen my claim that emissions are a significant problem for the environment and to gain perspective on some of the resolutions. In contrast to the CAS paper, I argued that his proposed solution was not as effective as a different one.

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This article is intended for an academic audience, including other professors and those interested in demographic statistics and trends. The voice of these two authors is strong and it is evident they are persuading for changes in the environment by reducing pollution. This article provided information about some causes of pollution and statistics among other things that I used to strengthen my logos and ethos and thus my argument.

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