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Ingue86 Final Paper

In today’s world, resources are becoming scarce. The United States heavily relies upon foreign resources for power and energy. This dependence forces situations which prevent our country from becoming better providers of life, and of its quality. The foreign energy dependence leads to political situations, which often force a hasty and not necessarily correct decision. If somehow, the dependence on foreign oil and other energy resources was eliminated, the United States would be able to concentrate on more important issues leading to a vastly improved quality of life. This dependence can be reduced and eventually eliminated through alternative fuel sources. There are many different substitutes for fossil fuels, such as energy from wind, bio-fuel, and hydroelectricity. The problem with these potential sources is their capacity to generate power. There is a limit to the amount of kinetic energy in the wind, and the waters of the earth.; that is why a better and more permanent solution must be developed. Why not use the stars as a light in the night sky and find the perfect energy source?
The sun has released tremendous amounts of energy every second for the past billion years. Why not harvest this energy, and deviate from fossil fuels? The truth is, the technology to collect solar energy is not advanced enough to make a noticeable impact in the fuel consumption of the United States. That is why the development of such technology is necessary. Solar energy is a very strong possibility; some energy suppliers are already capturing solar rays. Currently solar cells are capable of converting about six percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, but to further the efficiency of these solar energy capturing devices, a new more efficient process or technology must be uncovered. One such technology is being researched at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new approach to creating lightweight organic solar cells. By using pentacene, researchers have been able to convert sunlight to electricity with high efficiency,” says an article from the Georgia Institute of Technology on December 2004. This new type of solar cell is able to capture energy much more efficiently, making solar energy more capable of yielding the required energy.
Although this development would require a great deal of time and resources, the government should cover this by spending the required research money. It is the future that will bring refuge, and pay for, the development of this technology. According to John Berger, an Earth Island Journalist, “Each year the US spends $56 billion on imported oil and another $25 billion for the military defense of our oil interests in the Middle East. Federal subsidies to the oil industry drain another $20 billion or so while the environmental and health impacts of air pollution add another $150 billion. The total comes to more than $250 billion a year,” and this was in 1998. By removing the dependency on oil, the United States will be saving over $250 billion per year. This is where the funding for the research and development of alternative energy sources will blossom. After the need for oil no longer exists, the United States could use the excess funds to eliminate the deficit, develop better technologies that improve the quality of life of its residents, and more importantly, the Unites States will have secured its energy needs indefinitely. The theoretical idea is solid, but some may ask why has this option not been realized. The answer concerns finding a solar array big enough to yield enough dependable energy. The energy converted by a solar panel is directly proportional to its exposed area. In other words, the more area covered by the solar panels, the more energy is converted; this leads to a large amount of space being consumed to provide energy. This may solve the energy requirements in the near future, but eventually the space covered by the solar panels will be needed for other functions. If only there was a way to harness the energy of a star without requiring an excess amount of space.
The next step beyond solar energy is to harness the reaction at the heart of a star, which is known as fusion. The principle behind fusion is the combining of two atoms, causing their nuclei to fuse. This reaction releases tremendous amounts of energy, has “a virtually inexhaustible fuel supply, has a minimal environmental impact and is safe,” according to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. The fuels for the reaction are easily generated, and very inexpensive to acquire. This plentiful source would solve energy problems all over the world well beyond the discovery of a newer fuel. Also, the environment would not suffer, mainly because of the plentiful fuel and the cleanliness of the reaction. “Fusion does not yield greenhouse gases or other significant effluents that threaten environmental harm. Unlike some solar and wind technologies, fusion energy would make minimal demands on land use” (Secretary of Energy Advisory Board). Why consume the land that supports life on earth?
Not only will fusion protect the environment but also the ones who use its power. Again according to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, “The stored energy of the fusion fuel contained in the reactor would likely be equivalent to only a few minutes of power production in the case of magnetic fusion energy and fractions of a second in the case of inertial fusion energy. Accidents thus do not threaten wide-ranging impact.” The safety of fusion differs from fission in that the fuel for the reaction is just enough to produce a small amount of power, and as more fuel is needed, more is added. In fission reactions, all the fuel required is added in the beginning, creating a potential problem. The dangers are limited, and with the complete development of fusion energy, fusion will become the final source of energy that the United States, perhaps mankind, will need.
If the United States became energy independent, the effects would be felt for many years. Pollution would become much less of a concern because of the cleaner energy supplies, moreover solutions to other problems could be developed. There would be a final fix for the energy requirements of the United States. The USA Today agrees that, "our energy future is choice, not fate… oil dependence is a problem we need no longer have—and it's cheaper not to." There would be almost zero downside to the entire idea, except the effect it will have on the oil industry. After moving away from nonrenewable fuels, the United States will have saved so much money that they could invest in an even newer and better technology to further enhance the lives of its citizens, perhaps creating a plan for a cleaner environment and alternative fuel sources which could be enacted worldwide.

Mark Clayton, 2004. “Breaking Free From Energy Dependence,” USA Today [web page] [accessed 22 Jan 2005]

John Berger, 1998. “Oil Lobbies or Civil Society: Which Will Die First?” Earth Island Journal [web page] [accessed 22 Jan 2005]

Mary Bellis, “Solar Cars – Solar Energy and Photovoltics” [web page] [accessed 22 Jan 2005]

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, 1999 “Realizing the Promise of Fusion Energy” [pdf file] [accessed 22 Jan 2005]

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