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Energy, resource, investigation

Introduction

This is an essay on comparison of two sources of energy: wind power and oil. I will analyze these two and present scientific facts but also my own opinions. I will write about the history of the two sources, how they are used, how they have affected our lives etc. Furthermore, I will evaluate my own work in a criticizing manner discussing what I’ve learned; whether I’ve given a fair image of them both and much more.

Wind power

Wind power is a renewable resource, which means there’s an endless amount of this resource on the Earth.
As illustrated to the right, the wind drives the blades around a rotor which is connected to the main shaft. The main shaft then spins a generator to create electricity which is sent through transmission and distribution lines to our homes.

History of wind power

Wind energy has been used for centuries. At sea, wind has been used by sails. When bigger ships were built, it was possible to travel long distances in a short amount of time and contributed greatly to developing the technology of the world.
At land, wind power was used early to power windmills which grind cereal. In areas where the absence of streaming water and very good wind conditions combine, for example on Öland, Sweden, the windmills have been of great importance. During the industrial revolution, the use of wind power decreased as new sources of energy such as the steam engine were developed. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that wind power was once again used as a complement to other energy sources.

Oil

Oil is a flammable liquid occurring naturally in parts of the bedrock. This liquid is a mixture of hundreds of different hydrocarbons, which are made from the decays of dead animals and plants. This process takes about 100 000 years to complete. Oil is one of our most important sources of energy. It is a base component in numerous of products we use every day. Crude oil in its purest form is almost useless but by refining the oil in a process called fractional distillation, a whole lot of new products are made. Oil is a mixture of different carbon chains, and to separate them from each other, the oil must be heated. Different chains break away at different temperatures, depending on the length of the chain. The first step in the distillation is that the crude oil is sent into a container which can be described as a big oven. In the container, the oil is heated to 600C. At this point, asphalt is created. When the temperature drops a couple of degrees, fuel oil is extracted. At around 350 C lubricating oil is formed. The next stop is at 270 C where diesel is made. At 150C, paraffin, a jet fuel, is formed and at 100C, the most important compound gasoline is removed. When the temperature has dropped to about 20C and lower, liquefied petroleum and other chemicals are created.

In the question on how to create energy from crude oil, there are three ways of doing it and these are:
• Conventional steam – Oil is combusted to heat water into steam that drives a turbine which generates electricity.
• Combustion turbine – Oil is burnt under high pressure to produce hot exhaust gas which spins a turbine that creates electricity
• Combined-cycle technology – This is a combination of the two above. Oil is first heated in a combustion turbine, using the hot exhaust gases to generate electricity. These gases are then recovered and used to heat water into steam which generates electricity.

History of oil

When Colonel Edwin Drake drilled the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, his primary target was to find a source of kerosene to be used for lighting fuel and not to extract gasoline. Gasoline was only a waste product of the production of kerosene. It wasn’t until the invention of the automobile that gasoline would be used more widely.
World War I had a major impact on the use of gasoline in the world. When the war began, the primary mode of transportation in the military was still horses. This provided quite a problem since a horse requires ten times as much food as a soldier. At the time Britain entered the war, it had merely around 800 motor vehicles. By the end of the war, Britain had 56 000 trucks and 36 000 cars. Motorized transports dramatically changed the nature of the war which increased the oil production.

Advantages and disadvantages

These two energy resources are both used worldwide but the question is, which one of them is preferable to use, considering the environment, economics etc, and why.
Advantages oil
A massive advantage that oil has is that it can be used in so many different ways Plastics, gasoline and alcohols are all examples of products derived from crude oil. Oil is a very big part of our everyday life because of its versatility. The car we drive is powered indirectly by oil; the computer I’m working on as well and many other things around us are there because of oil. It is also very manageable because of its liquid form. It can be stored easily in lots of different containers and transported through pipelines. If we compare this with coal for example, we see that oil is much easier to transport. It fills up every little space available and therefore maximizes the effectivity of the transport whilst coal would leave gaps of air in the container. Now you’re probably thinking that a few gaps of air won’t make that big difference, but I respectfully disagree. A few small gaps quickly become a whole lot of space when we’re talking about thousands of containers.
Another advantage is that it’s a very reliable source of energy. It provides a steady stream of energy to our homes and our factories and such. Unlike wind power, oil always gives the same amount of energy, no matter where in the world you are.

Disadvantages oil

A fact that can’t be denied is that oil is not very environmentally friendly. When oil and its by-products are combusted, they release CO2 into the atmosphere and add to the greenhouse effect. The oil reserves of the world are not infinite so sooner or later the oil will run out and we will stand there, not knowing what to do.
When transporting oil by sea, an oil leak is of great danger to the nature because the oil floats on the water and the animals living in or nearby the water get affected. When a bird for example dives into the water, maybe looking for prey, the oil sticks to its feathers and is impossible for the birds themselves to remove. The oil reduces the feather’s insulation abilities and the animal will get a hard time coping with lower temperatures. The oil then enters the bird’s digestive system when the animal attempts to preen. This causes liver malfunctions and other irritations to the intestines. Most animals affected by a spill die unless humans intervene.

Advantages wind power

A major advantage with wind power is the fact that it’s a renewable resource, the wind won’t stop blowing. In contrary to oil, wind power is very environmentally friendly. The only releases of CO2 caused by wind power is the actual construction of the turbines and in comparison to the amount of energy they generate, it’s a very small number.
The risk of having an accident and maybe a death at a wind turbine is nearly impossible since there are no people working with them once they are in place. They function independently after installation which also makes it a very cheap energy source. The only way for a wind turbine could hurt a living creature would be if a bird flew right into the rotors. This actually happens from time to time, but the amount of birds that die from it is less than the amount of humans dying form pencil sticks.

Disadvantages wind power

A lot of people dislike wind power because they think the turbines destroy the environment. The question if a wind turbine is nice to look at or not is a matter of personal opinion but it is a fact that they are noisy and that most people do not want to live nearby them.
A major disadvantage with wind power is that it is quite inefficient and unreliable. The wind doesn’t blow in the same speed constantly but it varies from no wind at all to storms or hurricanes and a single turbine needs at least 7 mph to be usable so if there’s no wind at all, the rotors don’t spin and if there’s too much wind, the turbine deactivates itself. The amount of energy generated from a turbine is about 4 MW per year in comparison to a nuclear power plant which generates about 2000 MW per year. For wind power to be able to compete with nuclear power there would have to be 500 turbines in work.

Conclusion

As we can see, both wind power and oil has its pros and cons. Wind power is environmentally friendly but not very efficient, whereas oil is more efficient but not very good for the environment. I personally believe that neither of these two would be appropriate to use by itself. Wind power is too inefficient and oil is bad for the environment and won’t last forever. They must complement each other. I think that oil and its by-products should be the main source of energy whilst other renewable resources, such as wind power and hydropower, should be used as complements. If this worked out, it would buy the scientists of today some time to come up with either a new source of energy or an improvement of the ones we have today. Solar energy for example, has a great potential since the sun will shine until long after the humans are extinct. Currently, we are using a tiny fraction of the massive amount of energy the Sun emits every day. So to sum everything up I think oil should be the primary source of energy, with complements, until scientist have figured out a good solution to the problem.

Impacts

The development of oil and wind power has affected people in many different ways. In the following section, I will list some of them.

Oil

Oil has affected us humans in so many ways the last century. I would say that it has simplified our lives enormously. Oil is the foundation for basically all kinds of transports today, both on land and on sea. This connects the different parts of the world and allows people to travel longer distances in a shorter amount of time. Oil has basically made our entire society more efficient, for example the assembly line, the revolutionary invention that enabled mass production, was powered by gasoline, which is a by-product of oil. Although oil has made the lives of many of us much easier, others have been affected more negatively by it. In the countries in the Middle East, oil has been the reason for many wars. The Gulf-war for example, started because Iraq wanted control of Kuwait’s oil assets. Practically all conflicts in the Middle East the last century has been because of oil.
Oil does not have that much aesthetical impact on the environment. The extraction of oil is done out at sea or in the desert so people often don’t notice it. People might think that an oil rig looks hideous, but it doesn’t affect their everyday life since the rigs are so many miles out at sea.
An ethical argument against oil is that it’s very bad for the environment and the opposition of the use of oil is getting stronger as people are getting more aware of the trouble it is causing. Even if scientists were wrong and the burning of fossil fuels didn’t turned out to be bad for the environment, I believe that the use of oil still should be reduced. The reasoning behind this is that the need for oil is getting bigger at the same time as the supplies are getting smaller and this would result in conflicts between countries when everyone wants a share of “the black gold”.

Wind power

Wind power has been of great importance to mankind throughout history. Wind powered the ships that travelled the seas, trading with other cultures and discovering new worlds. You could say that wind power connected the world. All this was done without any negative impact on the environment.
Many people living in countries where wind power is used in a larger scale thinks that the wind turbines look hideous and that they destroy the nearby environment completely. I beg to differ on that point. I think that these turbines are very aesthetic and are peaceful to watch and I wish we in Sweden would have more of them.
There are not really any ethical arguments against wind power. It’s a renewable resource and environmentally friendly. One argument could be that the construction costs of a turbine are relatively high in comparison to how much electricity it generates but I believe that it’s worth it because that’s practically the only cost involved. After the construction it operates itself.

Media portrayal

Energy resources are a hot topic in today’s media and especially fossil fuels like oil has been on the agenda for quite a while. Oil, and fossil fuels in general, are mostly negatively portrayed but with all right. I believe that media should encourage people to engage in the question on the environment and cut down on things that are somehow connected to fossil fuels like taking the bike instead of the car. Sometimes the media exaggerates when talking about what will happen if we continue using fossil fuels but overall I think the image they give is fair.
Media often says that wind power is too unreliable to use in larger scale. That it’s a good theory but it doesn’t work in practice. That’s not completely true. Sure it would be unreliable if the turbines were placed randomly over the country, where the wind was more varied but we’re not that stupid. If a wind turbine would be placed somewhere, someone would make sure that it is a place where the wind is more or less constant. If wind power is used properly, it could be a great complement for other energy sources like in Spain where wind power stood for 40% of the total energy production. I would still say that the image media gives of wind power is fair because it describes both the advantages and disadvantages in a good way.

Evaluation

I’ve learned a lot from this investigation. When I first started writing, I believed that oil was all bad and wind power was all good, but when I researched a bit more, I found out that this wasn’t the case. I realized that we have to use oil and other fossil fuels until the development of other alternatives have gone forward so that they can take over. Of course I still believe that fossil fuels aren’t a long-term solution, it’s simply a measure to buy us time to figure out something different. Renewable sources of energy are something that has to be used in the future and we can’t avoid that no matter how we look at it. To cover the massive energy consumption of today, we have to use fossil fuels but they won’t last forever and that’s why renewable resources have to be improved.
I think my investigation provides a fair image of both sources of energy. I don’t let my personal opinion affect the portrayal of the two sources but I still include them. I think my work would be interesting to read for a person that’s against everything regarding fossil fuels because I give a clear and fair image of the current situation in the world and what has to be done.
As I mentioned before, I believe I’ve made a fair outline of what I think would be preferable to do regarding this question. I think I can open the eyes of both people that think wind power is the only solution and people who believe the same thing about oil. I don’t think that one of them is better to use but a mix of them both would be preferable. My point of view is the same as most scientists researching this area, I believe, so I give a professional picture of what should be done in the matter. Since I haven’t chosen a clear “favorite” source of energy, I think it would be hard for an opponent to disagree with me.
I believe my investigation could be scientifically examined to a certain point. If a professor or similar would examine my work, that person would probably think that I’ve used poor sources and find little defects everywhere but I believe that I’ve done the best I could with the resources I have. I couldn’t possibly write an investigation as good as a college professor would, but for a student I think I’ve done a pretty good work.

Sebastian Marklund

Energy, resource, investigation, 2.7 out of 5 based on 7 ratings
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