Free The Amount Of Damage And Good The USA Does To The Global Environment Research Paper Sample
In order for economic superpowers like the USA to stay atop the standings in terms of financial capacity and might, they need to keep their industrial complex running. Military adventures, neocolonialism, the role of world gendarme and peacemaker, and ambitious internal and international economic projects all require financing. Industry is a staple economic element that generates substantial revenue needed for financing whatever project the country decides to support financially. While it pays to have a good industrial complex dependent on conventional energy sources for the reasons specified above, it takes its toll on the environment due to the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere. Once there, hazardous substances contaminate the air or mingle with air masses to make their return to the earth in the form of precipitations causing soil erosion, deforestation, and the degradation of bio-environment and diversity among other things. Aware of the adverse effects of energy consumption, the USA has embraced the green energy philosophy. Although the United States of America is a significant contributor to the environmental degradation in part due to the emission of carbon dioxide, it has decided to go green and make use of natural energy production, but for all that, the country is lagging behind China that tops the USA in terms of natural energy generation.
US Carbon Dioxide Emissions
United States Environmental Protection Agency (n.p.) states that carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas caused by anthropogenic activities. As of 2012, the gas amounted to 82% of all American human-induced greenhouse emissions. There is a natural presence of CO2 in the atmosphere since the gas is an element of the carbon cycle of the Earth in the sense that it circulates among the atmosphere, animals, plants, soil, and oceans causing its absorption by animals, plants, and microorganisms. What anthropogenic activities do is add more carbon dioxide o the atmosphere thereby changing its natural cycle and affecting the capacity of natural sinks, such as forests, to remove the substance from the atmosphere. Although a wide range of natural sources produces gas emissions, manmade emissions are accountable for the increase that has taken place in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution as far back as 1750. Since then, human activities are instrumental in changing the climate by raising carbon rates and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Contributing to the pathological accumulation of CO2 are transportation and the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, along with land use and certain industrial processes to a smaller degree (United States Environmental Protection Agency n.p.).
As far as emission by sources in the USA goes, the largest portion of emissions comes from the electricity segment that produces 38% of pollutants; transportation is accountable for 32%, and industry for 14%. The residential and commercial sector and non-fossil fuel combustion make up the smallest fractions with 9% and 6% of emission respectively. More specifically, electricity, an important energy source in America finds its wide application in industry, business, and residential sector that need powering. Fossil fuel burning for electricity production was the major source of CO2 accountable for 31% of overall American greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 38% of overall carbon dioxide emissions as of 2012. To generate electricity, coal combustion will produce more carbon dioxide than natural gas or oil (United States Environmental Protection Agency n.p.).
So far as transportation is concerned, according to United States Environmental Protection Agency (n.p.), the burning of fossil fuels like diesel or gasoline for transporting commodities and people ranks second in the list of biggest contributors to carbon dioxide concentration. Transportation like air travel, highway vehicles, railway, and marine transportation make up a combined total of 27% of American greenhouse emissions and an aggregate of 32% of overall carbon dioxide emissions. As to industry, plenty of industrial processes release carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. A number of industrial processes generate carbon emissions by means of chemical reactions that involve no burning. To quote an example of such processes, the production of chemicals, metals like steel and iron, and the consumption and production of mineral products, such as cement, require no combustion, although it be that they release carbon dioxide. The burning of fossil fuels in industrial processes in the USA made up an estimated 12% of all greenhouse and 14% of all carbon dioxide emissions back in 2012. It should be borne in mind that industrial processes often tend to involve electricity, which means they indirectly cause the additional release of pollutants through the application of electricity needed to generate different industrial products.
The release of CO2 in the USA rose by 5% in the years between 1990 and 2012. The increase in the emission rates of carbon dioxide in the above-mentioned timeframe coincided with a general growth in emissions caused by electricity production and an enhanced energy consumption by expanding population and economy. The increase in the mileage covered by motor transport sent emission amount rising subsequently contributing to the increase of carbon dioxide (United States Environmental Protection Agency n.p.). The contribution of natural gas to electricity generation tumbled after reaching a record rate in 2012, which made it possible for coal production to reclaim its market share. The rise of prices on natural gas added to coal cost-effectiveness. In 2007, the production of coal fell from 49% of American electricity to as low as 37% in 2012, yet it went on to regain its position reaching 39% between 2013 and 2014. Even so, the liquidation of coal enterprises is likely to increase the market segment of natural gas and gradually drive the coal out of the market (The Business Council for Sustainable Energy 7). The regaining of market share by coal aggravating pollution seems short-termed. These negative trends notwithstanding, energy experts have reasons to stay optimistic since the country is switching to ecologically safer energy sources that have the potential of critically reducing the amount of carbon and other pollutants.
The Success of Measures Taken to Address the Pollution and the Shift to Sustainable Energy Sources and Reasons for Optimism
Industrialization does a lot to increase carbon emissions and degrade the environment. China that repeatedly finds itself wrapped in thick smog is already paying a high price for being a rising and promising economy. If the USA is to avoid the ecological outcomes faced by its principal trade partner, profound measures are needed. United States Environmental Protection Agency (n.p.) suggests that the management of non-agricultural land and forests in place since 1990 has served as a means of reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Its removal from the atmosphere and storage in trees and plants allows preventing pollutant release. The approach helped the USA compensate for 15% of overall emissions in 2012 (United States Environmental Protection Agency n.p.). The Business Council for Sustainable Energy (1-7) states that the power sector of the United States is at the stage decarbonizing, that is to say natural gas is ousting coal. The consumption and production of natural gas reached a historical high in 2014. The release of carbon in the energy sector saw a 9%-reduction in the period between 2007 and 2014. Over the comparable period, the country generated 25% as much natural gas as it used to prior to 2007.
Between 2007 and 2014, the USA invested in green energy, such as advanced grid and renewables, electrified transport and storage technologies to the amount of 386 billion dollars. Sustainable energy sector has been receiving 35 to 65 billion dollars on a yearly basis since 2007, which far exceeds the amount of investment in 2004 when a mediocre 10.3 billion was spent. In 2014, investment in the green clean energy sector was equal to 51.8 billion, which was 7% up on the previous year. The emergence of the so-called yieldcos, which are publicly listed firms in possession of renewable energy assets, momentum gained by rooftop solar business, and the short window of renewed policy support for the energy of the wind are believed to stand behind the massive investment figures. Large-scale hydro-projects allowed increasing the portion of electricity produced from sustainable energy sources from 8% to 13% in 2014. Since the year 2000, solar, wind, natural gas, geothermal, biomass, and other renewables have made up as much as 93% of new US power capacity. The USA made a significant headway in the sector of sustainable energy in 2014. The increase in economy in the region of 8% since 2007 in part has boosted green energy sources, as has the downfall of oil prices. Although there is no direct correlation between ecologically safe energy technologies applied in the power sector and oil used for powering transport, price shock can have an effect on sustainable energy in the USA (The Business Council for Sustainable Energy 1-7).
Beyond that, the Americans seem to become more cognizant of the need to contribute to the improvement of the damaged ecology. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy (7) suggests that the transportation sector has become less dependent on oil. Since 2005, the consumption of gasoline has fallen by 8.6% due to the increase in the efficiency of transport induced by the federal policy, the enhanced blending of biofuels, changing driving patterns, such as the reduction in miles per vehicle and vehicle number, and driver’s preference for cars consuming the lesser amounts of energy. New vehicle-related technologies are making their way to the USA and beginning to produce a highly impact on the use of oil. Shale drilling has boosted the production of oil in the USA by 41% since 2007. As per official estimates, policies either proposed or already adopted, including regulations on fuel economy standards for vehicles are expected to cause emissions to go down (The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, 7).
What made possible the improvement in carbon pollution in 2014 was the adoption of new policies that revolve around the promise of ecologically safe energy technologies. Bilateral climate pact with China and the power sector regulation implemented by the administration of President Obama are among the most significant achievements. Other policies concern clean energy integration, such as the plan of improving New York’s electric industry regulation the better to accommodate cleaner and more flexible energy sources. The country is going ahead with new infrastructural projects to implement the enormous inflow of sustainable technologies, including the employment of smart grid technologies and the expansion of natural gas pipelines. Fiscal vehicles prioritizing the development of ecologically safe energy sources receive larger portions of capital, which concerns green bonds and yieldcos that are supposed to set the stage for the accumulation of huge amounts of capital required to fulfill green energy development plans (The Business Council for Sustainable Energy 1). The rates of carbon emission and environment degradation are set to improve seeing that the country is heading for sustainable technologies in the midst of being implemented.
The USA Renewable Energy Potential: Despite Relative Advancement, the Rate of Bio-friendly Technology Use Remains Wanting
Although the Earth has a lot to offer in terms of renewables, ecologically safe sources remain underutilized in the USA. As it stands right now, according to Center for Sustainable Systems (1), about 82% of American energy stems from fossil fuels, 10% from renewables, and an additional 8% from the nuclear source. Institute for Energy Research (n.p.) suggests that a mere 9.5% of energy consumed in the country comes from renewable energy sources and constitute 12.9% of overall electricity production of the USA. The country is the world’s biggest consumer of wind, wood, solar, geothermal, and waste renewable energy sources it needs to produce electricity, its world share being 22%. As of 2013, the United States received 28% of energy from hydropower, 23% from biomass wood, 22% from biomass biofuels, 5% from biomass waste, 17% from wind, 3% from solar, and 2% from wind energy sources (Institute for Energy Research n.p.).
The swiftest growing renewable, wind accounts for only 1.6% of general energy consumption. Wind turbines are an excellent source of clean renewable energy that are advantageous except as they pose danger to birds and bats, create noise, produce an aesthetical mismatch, and cause land use issues. American onshore wind resources can potentially produce nearly 10.5000 GW of electricity, which exceeds the capacity of currently installed facilities by 172 times. The country installed 1.1 GW of wind capacity in 2013, which was 92% down from 2012. One wind turbine can save the environment from 1.800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions yearly. Energy experts place the projected amount of carbon emissions that are possible to avoid given the wind power capacity of 300 GW at 825 million metric tons (Center for Sustainable Systems 1).
Now covering 0.6% of American land area, solar photovoltaic modules have the potential of meeting US electricity demand. PV module cost dropped by 77% in the years between 2008 and 2012; still, their market segment took a sharp drop from 30% to 7% over the decade starting with 2000. In 2013, the overall capacity of solar modules rose to 12.1 GW due to the installation of solar energy generation appliances amounted to 792 MW of photovoltaic power, 1.112 MW in commercial sector, and 2.847 MW in utility sector (Center for Sustainable Systems 1). It is safe to predict that the USA may be expected to harness solar energy and exploit to its full potential since, according to Center for Sustainable Systems (1), the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Imitative will be decreasing the price on solar energy by 75% in the decade preceding 2020. If successful, the initiative will may allow solar energy to satisfy at least 27% of national electricity demand and reduce greenhouse gas release in the electricity production sector by 28% by 2050 (Center for Sustainable Systems 1).
A much promising renewable, sustainable energy source is also biomass. The waste products of wood, paper, and paperboard industries make up 46% of overall biomass energy use in the USA. The energy source has a relatively low rate of carbon dioxide emissions, as opposed to conventional fossil fuels. At the phase of burning, the biomass emits the amount of carbon it previously absorbed from the atmosphere. Scientists link extra emissions to processing. As with wind energy, biomass seems to present a land use issue. The matter is that it takes 124 acres of land to produce one GWh of energy on a yearly basis. Speaking of the geothermal energy source such hydrothermal resources as hot water and steam are in abundance in the western part of the country, primarily in Hawaii and Alaska. That said, the extraction of heat from the shallow ground by means of geothermal heat pumps is applicable throughout the entire USA due to the year-round preservation of stable temperatures. The good news is that American geothermal power is capable of neutralizing 110.000 tons of particulate matter released by coal-powered enterprises, 200.000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide on a yearly basis (Center for Sustainable Systems 1-2).
Analysts expect the amount of electricity produced by geothermal power enterprises to reach 67 billion kWh in 2040, which is 51 billion up on 2012. Geothermal energy is largely sustainable except that solid waste in the shape of minerals and salts geothermal plants generate apart from energy require liquidating or recycling. As far as the hydroelectric source is concerned, the net production of electricity from traditional hydropower reached its high of 356 TWh in the USA 18 years ago, whereas presently the amount of energy generation is 100 TWh down from 1997. Hydroelectric is an almost completely sustainable energy source save that a certain rate of carbon dioxide and methane released due to the decomposition of vegetation exposed to flooding caused by the dam, water quality and habitat deterioration. However, smaller-sized dams and fish-friendly turbines can minimize the negative environmental impact (Center for Sustainable Systems 2).
China Takes the Lead in Sustainable Energy Investment Surpassing the USA
Hargreaves (n.p.) notes that the overall amount of funds spent on green energy development was 269 billion worldwide. Director of Clean Energy Program at Pew, Phyllis Cuttino (n.p.) states that the figure is demonstrative of an 11%-decline of private investments due to the expiration of incentives and subsidies in principal markets like that of Europe or the USA (qtd. in Hargreaves n.p.). China proudly holds the largest share of 24%, the USA lags behind with 13%, Germany follows with 9%, the remainder of the European Union makes up 12%, and other countries are accountable for 41% of investments. In 2012, China reclaimed its top position in the green energy competition by drawing twice the number of investment the USA managed to secure. Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Per Charitable Trusts (n.p.) suggest that, in 2012, Chinese solar panel arrays, wind farms, and other green energy projects received 65 billion dollars in investments, not counting research and development funds and government subsidies, which means they went 20% up on 2011 (qtd. in Hargreaves n.p.).
China is believed to have regained its position as a top destination country for green investments it used to hold for two years running before forfeiting it to the USA in 2011. What happened in the USA was that clean energy investment saw a significant fall by 37% to about 35.6 billion dollars. A great push China gives to sustainable energy is in part due to deteriorating pollution issues. Based on its long-term stimuli, the country will be producing 20% of energy by means of renewable sources by 2030. There are no complex approaches like a federal policy on alternative energy sources except a separate initiatives locally implemented by American states. All the federal approach has to offer are a range of tax breaks set to expire a year after adoption. Cuttino (n.p.) states that investors pour their money into a country given that the latter sets a strong objective and a consistent policy (qtd. in Hargreaves n.p.). The USA clearly lacks a unitary approach in the form of a federal policy binding all states to develop clean energy sources. It may be that lobbyists hired by companies extracting conventional fossil fuels to hinder the transition to green energy sources. Not having a systematic road map for clean energy development, the USA stirs no interest in investors who will not spend their funds unless they have confidence in project profitability.
Sustainable energy sources are an ecologically safe alternative to conventional fossil fuels that produce a wide range of pollutants degrading the environment. Anthropogenic activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas, and coal in industrial and other processes release large portions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere disrupting the natural carbon cycle causing oversaturation and subsequent damage to animals, plants, and microorganisms. The production of electricity, transportation, and industry are the principal producers of carbon dioxide in the USA. The rate of CO2 emissions in the USA increased by 5% between 1990 and 2012 coinciding with a general growth in emissions caused by electricity production and an enhanced energy consumption by expanding population and economy. To prevent carbon emissions, the USA has introduced the management of non-agricultural land and forests, which allowed neutralizing 15% of overall emissions in 2012.
Beyond that, the USA invested in green energy, such as advanced grid and renewables, electrified transport and storage technologies to the amount of 386 billion dollars in the period between 2007 and 2014. Yieldcos, publicly listed companies in possession of renewable energy assets, progress made by rooftop solar business, and a short-termed resumed policy support for the energy of the wind have helped reduce carbon emissions, so have US drivers who started showing preference for cars consuming the lesser amounts of energy. Helpful have also proved new policies introducing ecologically safe energy technologies. While the country is developing wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric renewable technologies, much remains to be achieved to improve the emission level. The USA remains the world’s largest consumer of energy generated by clean sources relinquishing the lead to China as the single biggest destination country for foreign investments.
A worsening ecological situation and complex plans and long-term incentives ensure the influx of foreign funds. The lack of a consistent federal policy that would make clean energy development binding to all states, the inefficiency of expiring tax breaks, and the lack of strong strategic aims keep foreign investment away from the USA. Overall, the USA is taking measures like the development of clean, renewable technology to tackle the carbon emissions, yet efforts made to date show technologies are not utilized to their full potential. More than that, the lack of state initiatives, federal policies, and clear development objectives do not make the USA an attractive investment destination, unlike China that has drawn billions of dollars in foreign investments to become the single biggest developer of green technologies. It is only fair to admit the USA has done much to minimize the environmental damage inflicted by manmade activities, which means it certainly does good to the environment from a global perspective. Still, it would do a lot more if it adopted a complex approach to the development of clean technologies and made a favorable investment climate by rising financial credibility as China did.
Center for Sustainable Systems. “US Renewable Energy Factsheet.” University of Michigan. October 2014. 1-2. Web. 5 March 2015.
Hargreaves, Steve. “China Trounces US in Green Energy Investments.” CNN Money. 17 April 2013. n.p. Web. 5 March 2015.
The Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “2015 Factbook. Sustainable Energy in America.” Bloomberg New Energy Finance. February 2015. 1-143. Web. 5 March 2015.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Carbon Dioxide Emissions” EPA.gov. 2 July 2014. n.p. Web. 5 March 2015.
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