Chesapeake Bay with Sailboat
Photo by Alecia Simms
In 2004, 40% of the energy used in the United States was generated from petroleum, 23% from coal, 23% from natural gas, 8% from nuclear, 3% from hydroelectric sources, and 3% from other sources (Energy Information Administration of the DOE). Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste that is extremely dangerous and takes thousands or even millions of years to reach "safe" levels of radioactivity. Fossil fuel sources like coal, natural gas, and petroleum are nonrenewable, meaning there is a finite amount of the resource. It is regenerated over time, but the rate is so slow, that it is essentially nonrenewable. When fossil fuels are burned for energy, emissions such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other chemicals are released, thereby contributing to global warming and pollution.
Not only are fossil fuels nonrenewable, some estimates predict that at the current use of petroleum in the United States, we have only 75 years before proven reserves run dry. Although these estimates are extremely hard to compute, the irresponsible use of these resources cannot continue. Since the majority of our energy resources are non-renewable, we should be using them in an efficient manner. The U.S. accounts for one quarter of global oil consumption with only 4% of the world’s population...the change needs to start here (Worldwatch Institute).
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Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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