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The Car Crisis.

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                                                                        The Car Crisis

One way the average consumer can reduce the negative effects of energy expenditure is through transportation means. The exhaust from daily driving contributes to a bulk of those airborne pollutants today. It is for this reason that car companies have flocked to the promise of cleaner cars, since cars themselves have become an integral part of life. However cars have made dramatic gains in energy efficiency within the technological medium of the gasoline engine. Between 1973 and 1985 the fuel efficiency of cars rose 37% for all passenger cars, however as of late it has decreased by 5% due to an influx of sport utility vehicles, minivans, and light trucks which are not subjected to the same emission and efficiency ratings of smaller cars. Although oil itself has remained an inexpensive commodity, a lack of oil, or at least an inadequacy of the rate of its extraction has driven up the price of oil, creating an incentive for alternate forms of transportation energy. However with existing technology, an average fuel efficiency level of 35 miles per gallon could be attained in all cars, and create a dramatic change in carbon dioxide levels as well as oil import costs. This it is a converging effect of less-efficient vehicles, oil shortages, and most of all an ever increasing human population that exponentially makes the existing power supplies inadequate.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy systems use resources that are constantly replaced and are usually less polluting. Examples of renewable energy systems include solar, wind, and geothermal energy (getting energy from the heat in the earth). We also get renewable energy from trees and plants, rivers, and even garbage.

Solar energy

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 sometimes called solar cells. PV cells make electricity without moving, making noise, or polluting. They are used in calculators and watches. They also provide power to satellites, electric lights, and small electrical appliances such as radios. PV cells are even being used to provide electricity for homes, villages, and businesses. Some electric utility companies are building PV systems into their power supply networks.

Although the PV cells used in calculators and watches are tiny—less than a half inch (1.2 centimeters) in diameter—PV cells for larger power systems are about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter. When more power is needed, PV cells can be wired together to form a module. A module of about 40 cells is often enough to power a small light bulb. For more power, PV modules are wired together into an array. PV arrays can produce enough power to meet the electrical needs of your house—or for even larger uses.

Today, PV systems are mostly used for water pumping, highway lighting, weather stations, and other electrical systems located away from power lines. For example, if you had a cabin on a mountain top, a PV system would allow you to read some of your favorite books before you went to sleep!

Because PV systems can be expensive, they are not used in areas that have electricity nearby. But if someone needs electricity in a remote place, PV can be quite economical. Another aspect of PV power is "intermittency," which means that if the sun isn't shining, the system can't make electricity. Because PV systems only produce electricity when the sun is shining, these remote systems need batteries to store the electricity.

Solar thermal electric power
solar thermal systems can also change sunlight into electricity, but not in the same way as PV cells.

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municipal solid waste has the potential to be a large energy source.

In 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the United States generated 207 million tons (188 million metric tons) of trash. Out of all that trash, however, only 32 million tons (29 million metric tons) were converted to energy.

Garbage is also an inexpensive energy resource. Unlike most other energy resources, someone will collect garbage, deliver it to the power plant, and pay to get rid of it. This helps cover the cost of turning the garbage into energy. Garbage is also a unique resource because we all contribute to it.

Municipal solid waste can be burned in large power plants to generate electric power. Municipal waste-to-energy plants currently generate about 2500 megawatts of electricity—the equivalent of several large coal plants.

There is also a way to use the energy trapped in landfill garbage. When food scraps and other wastes decay, a gas called methane is produced. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. We can drill wells into landfills to release this gas. Pipes from each well carry the methane gas to a central point where it is cleaned. The gas can then be burned to produce steam in a boiler, or it can be used to power generators to produce electricity.

However, as with burning any type of fuel, municipal solid wastes can produce air pollution when they are burned and turned into energy.

Renewable energy in your future

One day, your entire home's energy may come from the sun or the wind. You may not think twice about filling your car's gas tank with biofuel. And your garbage might contribute to your city's energy supply. As scientists push the limits of renewable energy technologies and improve the efficiencies and costs of today's systems, we will soon be to the point when we may no longer rely mostly on fossil fuel energy.

Suhail Razaq 11G

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