The Important of Sustainable Energy By Individuals

June 28, 2014
People revolve around energy. They have to have it to wake up on time, eat, drive, work, and sometimes even sleep. Obviously, they use a lot of it. But if people continue to use it the way they are right now, how sustainable is it? In the essay “National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependence,” an Independent Task Force discusses the flow of oil, a main source of energy, and how importing it is dangerous to the country and energy supply. Robert Bryce uses “The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence” to explain the danger and impossibility of not importing this vital energy resource. In “State Solar Plans Are as Big as All Outdoors,” Marla Dickerson describes sustainable energy possibilities and plans for California, one of the biggest economies in the world. Together, these articles make a fierce argument towards sustainable energy. People need to think, and be, greener, especially in their energy usage. There are many reasons for this, many reasons people cannot count on large-scale sustainable energy, and many ways to go green as individuals.

There are many reasons, but people still question why they should bother being green, not realizing how much fossil fuel is actually used and imported. The Task Force points out that 4.6 percent of the world’s population, the U.S., uses 25 percent of the world’s oil (484). Most of this oil is imported, which greatly affects America’s foreign relations, according to the Task Force (484). The more energy America uses, the more oil is imported and the greater dependency is on foreign nations. Yet, oil and imports are only being supported by the government, with no attempt to counteract the dangers that come with fossil fuels and such a large reliance on foreign nations. Bryce mentions that Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, suggests that these foreign imports affect global warming (489). This is reasonable, considering that all oil, imported and domestic, is a fossil fuel, which is known to contribute to global warming, and importing anything always means that fossil fuels are spent on transportation. Bryce makes his own suggestion, that “none of the alternative or renewable energy sources now being hyped--corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, wind power, solar power, coal-to-liquids, and so on--will free America from imported fuels. America’s appetite is simply too large…” (492). If it is America’s appetite preventing usage of renewable energy at a useful rate, then it seems sensible to cut down America’s appetite so sustainable power becomes a reasonable possibility.

Although they may think otherwise, there are many reasons people cannot count on large-scale sustainability, specifically government policies and commercial production. People might think that the sustainability projects in the works for California, discussed in “State Solar Plans Are as Big as All Outdoors,” are an effective response to California’s excessive fossil fuel usage. For example, Dickerson mentions a bill that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was pushing for, that would require investor-owned utilities to receive 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 (507). While such a bill is definitely a good thing and a great leap to sustainability, what happens to the other 67 percent of non-sustained energy? It is still satisfied by fossil fuels, which are most likely imported oil. So although the bill is not a bad thing, it is not as effective as people may assume it would be. Even the Task Force admits, in reference to national oil dependency being controlled, “...the political system of the United States has so far proved unable to sustain the policies that would be needed to manage dependence on imported fuels” (485). This, then, shows how unlikely it is that the government will manage to control imported oil and fossil fuel use. Another example of large-scale sustainable energy failure is a project in the planning stage for California that Dickerson says is a massive solar thermal plant sponsored by Ausra Inc. (507). Dickerson cites a Clean Edge Inc. report that estimates the energy produced here would be about 40 percent cheaper than the energy produced by solar panels on houses and businesses (507). Unfortunately, according to Dickerson, critics are afraid that these farms, which need miles upon miles of acreage, will cause as much damage to the environment as they say they will prevent (507). This is a common problem with any large-scale sustainable energy supply, since the current technology needed is still in its infancy. Overall, as of right now, there is no technology nor are there plans for such technology that would make large-scale sustainable energy suppliers possible. People need to see that they cannot rely on large-scale renewable energy supply and that just because there is an issue does not mean an authority will deal with it.

People can make the difference that large entities, such as the government and Ausra, Inc., cannot and there are many ways in which they can go green as individuals, both by sustaining and conserving. One of the most helpful things that can be done to conserve energy and practice sustainability is to become educated. People need to learn about sustainable energy practices and what is not considered sustainable, so they can avoid harmful and wasteful actions and make better decisions. Further education on large-scale and governmental practices already in existence, such as incentives for going green, is beneficial because although these policies alone are not effective, people can put them to use and make them so. For example, when states like California require that utilities procure a certain percent of their energy from renewable resources, as Dickerson explained, these sources are often owned by homeowners, who are paid for their energy by the utility. By installing sustainable sources like solar or wind power, people create their own sustainable energy sources and can benefit from the many perks. People also need to practice conserving overall energy. The Task Force suggests a variety of conservation policies, and although these are large-scale possibilities, they can be considered on an individual level. For example, one Task Force suggestion is “the use of tradeable gasoline permits that would cap the total level of gasoline consumed in the economy” (486), which could be transferred to a household level by the household’s occupants agreeing to use only so much gasoline or power over a period of time. Other things that can help one conserve include updating houses, appliances, and vehicles to be more efficient. By conserving more, sustainability becomes a more attainable goal for both individuals and the nation. Even if only one person in every household does one environmentally-friendly thing, there would be a dramatic change in fossil fuel demands, for the better.

However, there are those that believe neither national nor individual sustainability is possible, such as Bryce and even the Task Force. Bryce argues, “If the Saudis, with their 260 billion barrels of oil reserves, and the Iranians, with their 132 billion barrels of oil and 970 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, can’t be energy independent, why should the U.S. even try?” (491). This suggests that Bryce believes the nation should not even attempt to be conservative or to lower energy consumption, despite the numerous benefits regardless of total independence and sustainability. The Task Force as well says, that along with limiting oil and gas consumption, the U.S. “should be prepared to open some new areas for exploration and production of oil and gas…” (486). The Task Force, then, does not believe that large-scale conservation would be effective enough to lower consumption. Bryce is right in the sense that it would be impossible for the U.S. to try to become fully energy independent and tapping new, domestic sources, as the Task Force suggests, would certainly reduce foreign imports and ease the strain of supplying such a large demand. However, Bryce completely ignores the fact that the dependence versus independence argument is not a one-or-the-other situation, and the U.S. could at least try to lower dependence and therefore overall fossil fuel usage, while the Task Force forgets that if America lowered its usage while increasing renewable supply, there would be no need for new explorations. By not acknowledging the middle ground, the Task Force and Bryce present inadequate arguments for not attempting to lower dependence, and thus fossil fuel usage.

By considering the reasons and practices discussed, people will become greener in their
everyday lives. With the amount of reasons to consider the environment in the world’s energy usage, it is easy to assume that any real problem would be handled by the government and protection agencies/activists. Unfortunately, these corporations are often inefficient, and it is more effective for individuals to focus on the many green practices possible. People do not realize the large impact they have as individuals, but if they did, change would be profound and nearly immediate.

Works Cited
An Independent Task Force. “National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependence.”
Reading and Writing in the Academic Community. Custom ed. Boston: Pearson,
2013. 483-487. Print.
Bryce, Robert. “The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence.” Reading and Writing in the
Academic Community. Custom ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 488-494. Print.
Dickerson, Marla. “State Solar Plans Are as Big as All Outdoors.” Reading and Writing in the
Academic Community. Custom ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 505-508. Print.

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