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Non-fossil Fuels Issues

Discuss about the Non-Fossil Fuel Transportation for Greenhouse Gases.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources that remain the world’s largest sources of energy. It is estimated that in 2013, fossil fuels accounted for 78% of global energy generation (International Energy Agency, 2015). The most common fossil fuels are coal, natural gas, crude oil and petroleum. These energy sources are finite because they get depleted over time. Fossil fuels originate from carbon-based materials. When these fossil fuels are mined/drilled and burnt to generate electricity, large volumes of greenhouse gases are produced. The fossil fuels are not found in many parts of the world and therefore they are usually mined and transported over very long distances to reach end users. This may include transporting from one country to another. The fossil fuels can be transported by rail, truck, river barges, pipelines, etc. Besides transporting fossil fuels, all these means of transportation uses fossil fuels. In the U.S., transportation sector accounts for about 29% of total energy consumption (U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration, 2017). Out of this, fossil fuels account for 95% of the total energy consumed in the transportation sector (Institute for Energy Research, 2016). Therefore transportation of fossil fuels produces its own pollution, besides increasing the likelihood of catastrophic accidents (Unon of Concerned Scientists, 2016). In general, fossil fuels generate large volumes of greenhouse gases. For this reason, there is need to explore available non-fossil fuels so as to reduce consumption of and reliance on fossil fuels. This will help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from mining, transportation, burning and using fossil fuels. The main aim of this report is to investigate various impacts of fossil fuels and identify non-fossil fuels that can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Fossil fuels have been in use for many years and their impacts cannot be overemphasized. These non-renewable energy sources have become of great concern over the past few decades due to their contribution to air pollution, global warming and climate change in general (Saeed & Tularam, 2017). The increase in global energy demand has resulted to a corresponding increase in demand for fossil fuels. This has led to increased drilling, mining, burning, transportation and use of fossil fuels (Liddle & Sadorsky, 2017). All these are associated with generation of greenhouse gases, which have negative social, economic and environmental impacts (Nabavieh, Gholamiangonabadi, & Ahangaran, 2015). The devastating effects of climate change, which is contributed by increased burning of fossil fuels, are life-threatening to the present and future generations (Owusu & Asumadu-Sarkodie, 2016). For this reason, the need to look for non-fossil fuels that are sustainable to substitute fossil fuels is inevitable (Kumar, Fujii, & Managi, 2015). This is the only way that the world can win to ensure reliable supply of affordable energy and protection of people’s health and the environment (Kruyt, van Vuuren, de Vries, & Groenenberg, 2009); (Pamwar, Kaushik, & Kothari, 2011).      

Transportation is one of the major hidden costs of fossil fuels. After mining, fossil fuels are usually transported over very long distances from mines to end users. The transportation of these fuels produce its own greenhouse gases and pollution. If fossil fuels are substituted with non-fossil fuels, this problem will be resolved because the latter generate power on site (Williauer, et al., 2018). Therefore the most sustainable solution to reduce carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels is to use non-fossil fuels.

Factors Hindering Use of Non-Fossil Fuels

Considering the negative impacts of fossil fuels, many countries have been making efforts to develop and use non-fossil fuels. However, these efforts have been met with a variety of challenges. One of these major challenges is sustainability of non-fossil fuels. The Chinese government, for example, formulated policies aimed at substituting fossil fuels with non-fossil fuels. However, it was found that the cost of using non-fossil fuels is higher than that of fossil fuels (Xie, Yu, Wang, & Liu, 2017). Other key challenges are: high initial capital, inadequate awareness on available non-fossil fuels and their benefits, scalability problems, reliability issues, etc. In general, the barriers affecting use of non-fossil fuels are categorized as: technical barriers, regulatory and political barriers, social-cultural barriers, economic and financial barriers, market-related barriers, and ecological and geographical barriers. These kind of challenges have to be resolved so as to achieve the objectives of using non-fossil fuels.

Although fossil fuels still account for the largest energy consumption in the transportation sector, there are several alternatives that can substitute them. Some of these include: ethanol, electricity, hydrogen, propane, methanol, biodiesel and P-Series fuels. All these are renewable energy sources. Renewable electricity is the most reliable non-fossil fuel option as it can be generated anywhere from various sources including wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, ocean power and bioenergy. Solar energy is energy that is generated from the sun. This energy can be generated from a wide range of technologies, including photovoltaic cells, solar heating systems, solar architecture, solar thermal energy systems, etc. Wind energy is the energy produced by harnessing wind (moving air) using wind turbines or windmills. Hydropower or hydroelectric power is the energy harnessed from fast moving or falling water. Geothermal power is energy generated from steam or geothermal energy (hydrothermal resources). The steam is obtained from hot water reservoirs found several miles below the ground. Ocean power is energy generated from ocean waves, salinity, tides and temperature differences. Bioenergy is the energy produced from biomass (organic materials produced from biological sources, such as sugarcane, wood, straw, wood waste, manure, etc.). There are numerous technologies of producing each of these renewable energies. The viability of generating each of these renewable energies is largely dependent on geographical location. For instance, production of solar energy is more viable in hot regions than in cold regions. The good news is that it is possible to generate more than one type of renewable energy in an area. For example, there is a place that can be suitable for generating solar energy, geothermal energy, bioenergy and wind energy.      

One of the best ways of increasing adoption of non-fossil fuels is improving the efficiency of systems or technologies used to generate renewable energy. This can be achieved by using more technology to develop technologies that have high conversion rates or efficiencies. For example, if it is a solar system such as photovoltaic cells, it should be able to generate a significant amount of solar energy with very low sunlight intensity. This will resolve the problem of unreliability whereby supply of renewable energy reduces significantly when the renewable energy source decreases.

Non-Fossil Fuel Options

There is also need to develop storage systems for renewable energy. Since renewable energy is generated from natural resources, supply of these resources may be inconsistent due to various reasons such as weather patterns. For the case of solar energy, it is obvious that production is high during the day and reduces significantly during the night. For hydropower, generation is high during rainy seasons and may reduce during dry seasons. To prevent implications of such fluctuations, efficient storage systems should be provided so as to store surplus energy wen production is high and use it when production is low.

Conclusions

The need to replace fossil fuels with non-fossil fuels is long overdue. Continued use of fossil fuels over the years has resulted to numerous problems, such as air pollution, global warming and climate change, which are now the greatest threats to human safety, survival and economic development (He, 2015). As global energy demand continues to rise rapidly due to growing global population and economic development, the negative impacts of fossil fuels will also continue increasing. One of the major problems of fossil fuels that is not known to many people is the transportation of these fuels. Besides the costs and potential catastrophic disasters, transportation of fossil fuels is associated with emission of greenhouse gases. The transportation, whether by road, railway, pipeline, water, air, etc., consumes the fossil fuels. For example, trucks, ships or trains are powered by diesel oil or petrol, which are produced from fossil fuels. When these resources are burned during transportation of fossil fuels, they produce carbon emissions over the entire distance the fuels are transported. To reverse this, there is need to substitute fossil fuels with non-fossil fuels. There are two fundamental benefits of using non-fossil fuels. First, most non-fossil fuels do not need transportation because they are produced onsite. This eliminates any carbon emissions that are associated with transportation. Second, production of energy from non-fossil fuels has near-zero carbon emissions. These two significantly reduces global warming and climate change.

The war against climate change can only be won if every person plays a role. Governments should be in the forefront to formulate appropriate policies that will boost adoption of non-fossil fuels and depress use of fossil fuels. One of such policies is setting greenhouse gas emission limits that are difficult to attain using fossil fuels. This will force companies and individuals to shift from fossil fuels t non-fossil fuels. There should be severe penalties for anyone who violates these policies. Therefore every country must have her own greenhouse gas emission targets (Wang, et al., 2016), which should be in agreement with global policies such as Kyoto protocol.  

Governments should provide incentives to developers, promoters and users of non-fossil fuels especially renewable energy, including solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, ocean power, geothermal energy and bioenergy. These incentives should help in eliminating economic and financial barriers of using non-fossil fuels. Besides that, governments should create a regulatory framework that makes it easy for people and companies to sell, buy or use non-fossil fuels. Above all, there should be good political will to promote use of non-fossil fuels.

There is also need for relevant stakeholders to increase awareness campaigns so as to educate the public about available non-fossil fuels options, their costs, benefits and opportunities (Tvinnereim & Ivarsflaten, 2016). This way, people will become more aware of renewable energies, appreciate them and start adopting them. It will also help overcome social-cultural barriers hindering adoption of non-fossil fuels.

Researchers, scientists and engineers should focus on developing more viable, sustainable, efficient, reliable, versatile and affordable non-fossil fuel systems. They should also share knowledge about the latest trends, opportunities, limitations and opportunities in non-fossil fuel systems. This will help in resolving technical barriers and ecological & geographical barriers of renewable energies.

References

He, J. (2015). China's INDC and non-fossil energy development. Advances in Climate Change Research, 210-215.

Institute for Energy Research. (2016). Fossil Fuels. Retrieved from Institute for Energy Research: https://instituteforenergyresearch.org/topics/encyclopedia/fossil-fuels/

International Energy Agency. (2015). Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report 2015. Instanbul: International Energy Agency.

Kruyt, B., van Vuuren, D., de Vries, H., & Groenenberg, H. (2009). Indicators for Energy Security. Energy Policy, 2166-2181.

Kumar, S., Fujii, H., & Managi, S. (2015). Substitute or Complement? Assessing Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy in OECD Countries. Applied Economics, 1438-1459.

Liddle, B., & Sadorsky, P. (2017). How much does increasing non-fossil fuels in electricity generation reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Applied Energy, 212-221.

Nabavieh, A., Gholamiangonabadi, D., & Ahangaran, A. (2015). Dynamic Changes in CO2 Emission Performance of Different Types of Iranian Fossil-fuel Power Plants. Energy Economics, 142-150.

Owusu, P., & Asumadu-Sarkodie, S. (2016). A Review of Renewable Snergy Sources, Sustainability Issues and Climate Change Mitigation. Cogent Engineering, 1-13.

Pamwar, N., Kaushik, S., & Kothari, S. (2011). Role of Renewable Energy Sources in Environemntal Protection: A Review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 1513-1524.

Saeed, T., & Tularam, G. (2017). Relations between fossil fuel returns and climate change variables using canonical correlation analysis. Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy, 675-684.

Tvinnereim, E., & Ivarsflaten, E. (2016). Fossil fuels, employment, and support for climate policies. Energy Policy, 364-371.

U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration. (2017, May 19). U.S. Energy Facts Explained. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_home

Unon of Concerned Scientists. (2016, August 30). The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuels. Retrieved from Union of Concerned Scientists: https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/hidden-cost-of-fossils#.Wrr1MJpRXIU

Wang, L., Patel, P., Yu, S., Liu, B., McLeod, J., Clarke, L., & Chen, W. (2016). Win–Win strategies to promote air pollutant control policies and non-fossil energy target regulation in China. Applied Energy, 244-253.

Williauer, H., Hardy, D., Baldwin, J., DiMascio, F., Williams, F., Bradley, M., & Hoheisel, R. (2018). Economic Comparisons of Littoral Production of Low Carbon Fuel from Non-fossil Energy Sources and Seawater. Journal of Cleaner Production, 1473-1483.

Xie, H., Yu, Y., Wang, W., & Liu, Y. (2017). The Substitutability of Non-fossil Energy, Potential Carbon Emission Reduction and Energy Shadow Prices in China. Energy Policy, 63-71.

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