In 2014, the world was producing 2.5 million barrels per day of oil. Three years later that number had drastically decreased to 0.4 million barrels. The demand, however, rose slightly from 1.4 million to 1.5 million barrels per day. Based on these trends we will not be able to get enough oil to fill that demand. We must find alternative energy.
According to Natural Resources Canada, 19% of Canada’s energy comes from renewable resources such as windmills and water dams. These are world-leading numbers, however, it’s not enough to sustain the country. Most of our electricity comes from hydro dams, built to utilize the large amounts of clean flowing water in the country. Coal was our second most popular source of electricity especially for northern territories and eastern provinces but due to major issues with air contamination these coal-burning plants were shut down in 2014. For now these areas are using diesel for electricity, however, with the rise in oil prices, this won’t be an option for much longer. Nuclear power may look appealing right now as reactors don’t produce any air or carbon emissions, but the amount of energy used to mine the materials for these reactors coupled with the effects of beta and gamma radiation makes this a dangerous option that could harm future generations. Meanwhile, the electrical grid receives more and more stress everyday. In order to continue living on our planet and maintaining a sustainable environment we need to find solutions.
Solar panels on the roofs of houses and integrated into roads could be a massive source of energy for our society. They could also provide many job opportunities for Canadians as these panels require lots of work to install. This would be a great way to utilize the large amount of solar energy shed on the Earth everyday and reduce environmental damage that dams and windmills are doing to the fish and birds.
Although they offer many advantages, solar comes at a cost and this may be why it hasn’t not taken off. To get your home professionally kitted out to run on solar will cost from $20,000 to $25,000 or more. This is like paying for 10 to 25 years of electricity in one go. If you can afford it, it makes long term sense, especially if you live in a sunny area. On sunny days, these panels can even make money by producing a surplus of energy that can be sold back to the grid thus reducing the cost. As more people start using these panels and the designs become more efficient, the price of this technology is likely to become more affordable, making it an option for everyone.
Another way we can reduce our pull on resources is by using more efficient equipment and housing which would end up saving money and resources in the long term on heating and lighting–two very important, yet energy-intensive necessities.
With new Passive House designs, buildings can be up to 90% more efficient by using advanced insulation and heat exchange systems to collect and maintain energy produced by everyday life such as cooking and showering. These Passive Houses cost about 10% more to build but pay for themselves with the amount of energy saved. These buildings require special designs and trained workers which also opens up job opportunities for people of all education levels.
L.E.D. lighting is another option which can save power and money. They are six times more efficient than your typical incandescent light, making them far more affordable over time. Some may argue that the light given off by L.E.D.s is too harsh but that can be fixed by tinting the exterior of the lamp. Additionally, they produce more light and last longer so that you can replace them less often, thus reducing the cost.
Transportation is another activity that consumes tremendous amounts of energy. The increasing prices of gas are making driving less and less of an appealing way of commuting. While electric cars are becoming very popular, they have a few major problems. Mining companies can’t keep up with the demand for the lithium which is a key in making high efficiency batteries. In addition, mining these heavy metals requires the use of fuel-burning machinery. Another downside of the electric car is that they strain the system and draw a tremendous amount of power. So your car may not be directly burning fuel, but if your electricity comes from burning fuels, you’re really not making a significant difference and may as well drive your old car into the ground.
Electric cars are great if you’re buzzing around town and have a place to recharge on “clean” electricity at the end of the day but what if your electricity is coming from fossil fuels or if you want to travel far without having to wait for charge? Biodiesel offers a great alternative to gas and diesel for the short term. We can slightly modify already existing diesel vehicles to utilize vegetable oils and animal fats. They’ll still produce fumes and carbon emissions but not nearly as much as their gas-burning cousins. These vehicles make for great long journey and farm vehicles where batteries may die and waste time charging.
A promising new technology that’s becoming easier to access is Hydrogen fuel cells. These utilize hydrogen produced by electricity flowing through water which separates the oxygen from the hydrogen. When it burns, it only produces water. It does require electricity to produce the hydrogen but there is no need for large batteries thus saving energy from mining. This technology is still in development and hydrogen fill stations are very rare but it is a very clean power.
All in all, we need to work together towards a cleaner more renewable future so we can continue to enjoy the wonderful place we call home. By adding infrastructure to steer away from the oil industry we not only keep the planet at a comfortable temperature, saving the polar bears that live up north, but also provide jobs and income for our hard-working citizens.