Government Subsidization of Solar Energy Essay Example


Renewable energy sources have often been examined as alternative energy sources as humans continue to deplete non-renewable resources commonly used for energy (i.e., fossil fuels, coal, oil). The stimulus packet addresses topics of importance surrounding the idea that people need to make changes to improve their environments. One such source is a speech from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. In this speech, she highlights that the main threat to the environment is population increase and the consequential increase of emission and waste producing activities(Thatcher).

From this it can be deduced that CO2 output especially needs to be immensely decreased to preserve the environment. Relying on alternative energy and fuel sources rather than traditional energy sources can aid in mitigating the human-created carbon footprint. In 1931, inventor Thomas Edison declared, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” The United States should not wait until there is another energy crisis before searching for and implementing alternative energy sources which are safe, renewable, and profitable. In examining safe, renewable, and dependable energy sources for the U.S., solar energy is an efficacious alternative to traditional energy and fuel sources; the use of solar energy also has immense opportunities for profit, both national and personal, and will reduce emissions compared to other energy sources such as fossil fuels.

The Environmental Implications of Utilising Solar Energy Opposed to Traditional Energy Sources

The use of fossil fuels, coal, and oil should be decreased in favor of cleaner, renewable energy sources such as solar energy since the use of traditional energy sources is hazardous to the environment with the immense amount of unhealthy emissions produced. Unhealthy emissions, especially CO2, increase global temperatures, contributing to climate change. Reliance upon energy sources such as fossil fuels will be detrimental to the United States since these sources will eventually become completely depleted. An energy crisis situation can be avoided by not being fully dependent on nonrenewable energy sources.

The environment will also be irreversibly damaged from the negative effects of using fossil fuels, one of many being an immense contributor to the total output of atmospheric CO2. Illustrated by the photograph [Appendix A] of deadened trees in West Siberia, Russia, oil spills are extremely harmful to the environment. In the photograph, trees have been killed due to an oil spill in the area. Since less oil would need to be extracted from the earth, there would be a greatly decreased likelihood of spills and disasters. Additionally, trees decrease carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through photosynthesis. By killing trees and other plants, as well as continuing the current oil and fossil fuel usage, CO2 levels in the atmosphere will continue to increase unmitigated and will continue damaging the atmosphere and the environment. Warming caused by CO2 emissions lingers for hundreds of years after the initial release.

This graph [Appendix B] from researchers Ricke and Caldeira, of the Department of Global Energy and Carnegie Institution for Science, find that CO2 emissions reach their maximum warming potential approximately 10 years after the original emission. They also communicate that this maximum is hardly higher than the following temperatures since the temperature by 100 years after the initial CO2 release is still 1 mK/GtC(Caldeira & Ricke). Switching energy sources from fossil fuels to primarily solar energy will help the effects of fossil fuel emissions not be further exacerbated.

The Economic Implications of Utilising Solar Energy Opposed to Traditional Energy Sources

Despite being cheaper to obtain, fossil fuels are non-renewable, unhealthy for the environment, and release great amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Though the costs to obtain solar energy are slightly greater than that of traditional energy sources, the United States will profit more from the use of solar energy. The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) are two prominent endorsers for solar energy. These departments communicated within a comparison of costs presented in a graph [Appendix C] that the costs of solar technology have decreased since the 1980s (approximately $16.00 per watt) and by 2012 were in the same cost band with coal, oil, and other natural gases (approximately $.50 to $1.00 per watt)(DoE & NREL).

The costs (i.e., initial and upkeep) of utilising solar energy as a main energy source have greatly decreased in recent years, allowing more American families and businesses access to an affordable, renewable, clean energy source. As the technology for obtaining, converting, and storing energy from the sun becomes more efficient, the funds needed decrease and the amount of energy cells produced increase. Essentially, more energy is obtained for less money. Velastegui reveals that “solar photovoltaic energy generating capacity increased about 67% from 2015 to 2016” and has the “highest annual growth rate (6.4%) among all the renewable energy sources for the 2016-2040 period.” Comparing the growth of solar energy to other energy sources, “wind generating capacity only increased 13% from 2015 to 2016 and was expected to annually grow at a slower growth rate than solar (2.6%)”(Velastegui).

It has been shown in recent years that solar energy has the most technological advancements compared to other alternative energy sources and that this technology, and the subsequent use of it, will continue to grow in the near future. The implementation and use of solar energy is the most economically viable solution for energy since the U.S. has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into solar energy research and the technology continues to grow and become more efficient.

The Ethical Implications of Utilising Solar Energy Opposed to Traditional Energy Sources

Since solar energy is such a superior energy source and is conducive to a healthier environment in the form of reduced CO2 emissions, the U.S. government should be advocating against the unethical use of nonrenewable fuel sources such as fossil fuels in favor of the ethicality of clean, renewable energy sources. Sergey Govorushko, a chief research scholar at the Pacific Institute of Geography, divulges that in the years “2003–06, a total of 404 occupational fatalities among oil and gas extraction workers occurred in the United States, resulting in an average annual fatality rate of 30.5 per 100,000 workers”(Govorushko). Despite the few deaths total in the solar energy occupational field, all were caused by oversights in working condition safety standards.

For example, failure to consistently use safety harnesses, potential electric shocks due to improper safety precautions, and heat or cold stress due to overwork in unsafe conditions. All can be mediated through stricter workplace safety standards aimed towards worker safety. Deaths in the oil and gas extraction fields are primarily caused by the dangers associated with the resources being extracted such as CO(carbon monoxide) poisoning, gas leaks, explosions, fires, and machinery hazards, in addition to common, stereotypical workplace safety hazards. Examining the differences in potential dangers to workers for each energy source, it would be unethical for the United States government to continue passively encouraging the use of traditional energy sources when these sources are more hazardous to workers, merely for the resources being obtained, than other energy sources such as solar energy. The U.S. government should subsidize solar energy as the primary energy source in the United States due to the unethicality of other energy sources based upon workplace hazards.

Conclusions & Solutions

The United States needs a new, reliable source of energy before there is another energy crisis. Former president Barack Obama said in an address to Congress in 2009, “To truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy”(Hechtkopf). Solar energy may require an investment at the beginning, but in time the energy will pay for itself in money saved and in the benefits for the environment. Solar energy is a worthwhile investment for the U.S. in the energy department since it is renewable and safer for the environment due to the comparatively reduced CO2  and other emissions outputs.

Velastegui, a doctor of philosophy, writes for the Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics that “solar photovoltaic energy generating capacity increased about 67% from 2015 to 2016” and has the “highest annual growth rate (6.4%) among all the renewable energy sources for the 2016-2040 period.” Comparing the growth of solar energy to other energy sources, “wind generating capacity only increased 13% from 2015 to 2016 and was expected to grow at a slower annual growth rate than solar (2.6%)”(Velastegui). Solar energy is the superior energy source in comparison with other alternative energy sources. It is safer than nuclear energy, developing more than wind energy, and less geographically dependent than hydroelectric power. Solar energy is the fastest growing alternative energy source currently, resulting in a quickly implementable, affordable energy source that will contribute greatly to reduced atmospheric CO2 emissions.

A viable solution for the issue of choosing an alternative energy source for traditional energy (i.e., fossil fuels) is for the United States to mitigate the use of traditional energy while subsidizing solar energy research and use. In this scenario, the United States government would provide tax breaks to incentivize citizens to switch to solar as the primary personal energy source for their homes; additionally, businesses would also be offered tax breaks for using solar energy. These tax breaks available to solar energy users would act as subsidiaries and cover the costs of many uncertainties, such as future inflation rates and the value of solar modules when they become outdated.

The U.S. government, and consequently the United States, would benefit from also funding storage and collection of excess energy cells produced if the excess energy cells were sold to the government for use in federal and state facilities. A limitation of this solution would be the high initial costs of solar technology. However, the costs of solar technology have been proven to be decreasing greatly in past years. In fact, the costs of solar energy are in the same cost band as fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Another potential limitation of this solution is the cost of upkeep for solar panels and updating the technology. This can be remedied through tax breaks given by the government.

The extra money can be used to aid in upkeep and updating solar panels. An implication of the U.S. government subsidizing solar energy is that there would be a reduced risk of injury or death to workers obtaining natural gas since there would be a decreased need for these energy sources. CO2 emissions from energy would be nearly eradicated since the burning of fossil fuels would be greatly diminished. Another implication of this solution is the economic benefits of the collection and storage of solar energy cells. In searching for a safe, renewable, and dependable energy source for the United States as an alternative to traditional energy sources, solar energy is a strong alternative to traditional energy and fuel sources; the use of solar energy also has immense opportunities for profit, both national and personal, and will reduce emissions compared to other energy sources such as fossil fuels. The U.S. government should subsidize the use of solar energy in order to implement a safer, renewable energy source that will provide energy stability for the U.S. as well as providing an alternative to CO2-producing fuel sources such as natural gases.

 

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