How Energy Can Either Help or Harm Our Environment

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How Energy Can Either Help or Harm Our Environment

William Paul, Photographer

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The earth is the only planet we have, and it is in danger. Every day that we waste the resources that are available to us, we are furthering our demise. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is an essential factor in global warming and climate change. The more trees we cut down, the more carbon dioxide to be absorbed in the atmosphere. Trees absorb CO2, and without them, we are in a losing battle for oxygen. 40% of energy consumption in America is used for electricity, with the primary source of energy being produced by coal, not adding 24% in California between 2011-2017. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that, when released in the air absorbs the warmth from the sun, these gases do not disappear, and as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it makes it warmer.

Climate Central

This is called the Greenhouse effect. Coal, which is made from carbon dioxide, is crushed into a powder which then is burned. Because of this, the fumes of the burning coal go into the earth’s atmosphere. This excess carbon dioxide is just the first step in the climate crisis as we are already releasing a vast amount of CO2 in our environment. These issues not only help cause global warming, but it affects the animals and humans because the amount of CO2 in the air reduces the amount of oxygen reaching your body. One method we can use to reduce the amount of carbon is to reduce our use of electricity, and stop cutting down trees.

What can we do about it?
When we cut back from our overuse of energy, it causes power plants to release less toxic fumes into the air, and not only that; we can reduce the use of coal, crude oil, and fossil fuels. In an article called Save on Energy, it states if every American gets a CFL light bulb instead of a normal one, do you know it would be like taking 1.3 million cars off the road?! Something as simple as turning off the lights at night or using cold water when you wash your clothes can save trees, coal, and natural gasses.

Michael Shellenberger, an environmental policy writer, hypothesizes that as the use of energy increases, the search for fossil fuels will become limited, making energy more expensive as the search gets harder, especially with the demand in California. That may be the reason why electricity costs in California rose almost 5x more than the rest of the United States! Illinois electricity is 42% cheaper than ours so this should be a wake-up call to use less electricity as Californians.

Our addiction to poor energy sources also causes oil spills and air pollution, which is not only killing other species, but us as well. Response.restoration.noaa.gov stated that most oil spills are caused by people making mistakes or being careless, equipment breaking down, or natural disasters such as hurricanes. When the oil is on the water, depending on how thick tit is, it will either sink or float on the surface. The petroleum affects many mammals and birds that groom themselves, as they end up ingesting it, which poisons them. Sea turtle’s lives are miserable after an oil spill because it makes feeding, diving, mating, migrating, and escaping predators more difficult.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

In America, we have about six species of sea turtles, but they are all classified as endangered, which is crazy. Saving the turtles is a trend, and the decrease of plastic straws in our oceans is good, but on biodiversity.org, there is a section that is called the “death toll”, which tells us that oil spills are killing more sea turtles than straws ever have. If we genuinely want to save the turtles, we have more work to do than using metal straws and hydro flasks.

What are the next steps?
There are other sources of energy that are clean and should be used, such as including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc. The SB 350 act, also called the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act, is a senate bill that reduces the use of electricity and establishes new cleaner energy sources. This act also makes the state requirements to save about double the amount of energy in electricity and natural gas by 2030. Not only is the SB 350 Act trying to reduce the use of electricity, but it is also giving opportunities to low-income households to afford renewable energy. While lawmakers are in the pocket of oil and coal companies, it is vital that the fight for change continues. We, as citizens of the United States, have to do something about this because pollution and climate change is ruining the economy and the lives of not only you but your loved ones as well.