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The Cap vs. The Tap

Photo courtesy of flourishonline.org

 

People who drink from the bottle do so for different reasons. Some do it simply because of convenience. Others drink it because it tastes better.  More think that it’s cleaner than the tap. In almost every country plastic bottled water is preferred. But all that should be irrelevant when it comes to the environment that’s deteriorating quickly.  According to BottledWater.org, in 2013, bottle waster reached a high exceeding 10 billion gallons, but we should all be making an effort to decrease our intake of bottled water.

We’re being tricked!

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According to RD.com, most bottled water comes from the same supply that tap comes from. Companies aren’t even required to list the source of the water so customers are tricked into believe they are drinking healthier.  So basically it is “glorified tap water” because it is treated and then sold for a large profit.

In addition, labels can be very misleading. The bottled could be stamped with “spring water” or “water from the mountains” but that’s just a name. The water probably comes from a regular tap supply treated to taste better or in a worst case scenario, it could come from a source near a landfill.

RD.com also stated that in 1999 the NRDC tested about 103 brands of water bottle and found that most of them were safe to use but about a third of them have contaminants in them making the companies’ claims that they are selling pure water false.

Why the tap is better! (Environmentally)

Elizabeth Royte’s Bottlemania stated that about 50 billion water bottles a year, and most of those aren’t even recycled and end up in landfills, wasting space and the materials that were used to make it.

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The act of actually transporting the water bottles to all their various destinations also burns fossil fuels, which is awful for the atmosphere. Those same fossil fuels are used to actually make the plastic in the first place. Now we’ve noticed that in the past water bottle companies have tried to decrease the amount of plastic they use by changing the shape of the bottle and size of the cap.

Bottled water is a huge contributor to excessive waste, and soon the Earth will run out of space to store our lazily thrown out recyclables. Sacrificing the environment you live in is not worth the convenience of grabbing a water bottle or the small difference in taste. It is especially unacceptable when there is an alternative: drinking from the tap.

Why the tap is better! (In general)

First of all, National Geographic says that globally we spend about $100 billion on bottled water! In a world that complains about the economy constantly, I feel like we could all save a little money and just use tap water and refill reusable water bottles with tap water.

The plastic water bottles aren’t even reusable! This Huffington Post article says that with each reused the plastic used in plastic water bottles can be more of a contamination threat than the actual water. They leak chemicals like DEHA and benzyl butyl phthalate and create destructive bacteria that you likely injest with every drink you take.

Let’s not forget that tap water is just way cheaper than bottled water like we discussed above! Tap water is treated. Water sources cannot just send contaminated and unhealthy water to houses without being purified or treated in some way. Even if you believe in these contaminants, filters are great to invest in! You get the “quality” of bottled water directly from your tap.

How does that work? I learned this in my chemistry class! Within the filters, there is charcoal, which is made of Carbon atoms. These are ideal for bonding with most other atoms because it has four lone electrons available to bond with the one, two of three pairs of lone electrons of the contaminant ions). When the water runs through the filter, the charcoal attracts these ions and you have much better quality water!

Tip: When buying that reusable water bottle, it’s a safer bet to go with a stainless steel water bottle rather than a plastic reusable water bottle, since it has the potential to degrade over time and release chemicals into the water you drink. Even better are the glass water bottles with a silicone sleeve. Glass won’t degrade from over use.

 

Petroleum Engineering on the Rise Despite Environmental Effects

As a college student searching for a career to spend the rest of her life doing, I have gone through all the sites that tell you what the best majors are and what the best paying jobs are. On the top of every single list I have seen petroleum engineering. This little fact sparks up an interesting thought. In a world that should be attempting to gradually switch to more environmentally-friendly products and vehicles, you would think that petroleum engineering would be a slowly-disappearing field.

Photo courtesy of UNews

 

However, petroleum engineers are on the rise and looking for more people with a 26% job outlook according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a statistic by Forbes says petroleum engineers are paid on average $130,280 per year, an attractive income for anybody looking for a solid job.

What even is Petroleum Engineering?

Petroleum engineering brings together the skills required to master mathematics, physics, geology and chemistry to address the need for energy today. According to the University of Texas at Austin, they evaluate potential oil and gas reservoirs, oversee drilling activities, select and implement recovery schemes and design surface collection and treatment facilities.

Penn State’s Energy Engineering Department believes that one of the more important branches of petroleum engineering is the reservoir engineer whose job includes a lot mathematics and application of petroleum engineering to predict the future production from the reservoirs.

Why is it so popular?

Chart courtesy of EconomicModeling.com

 

Well, now that we have started exhausting the original sources for petroleum, these engineers are needed to find new ways to drill this precious fossil fuel out of the earth. Since petroleum engineer salaries are now increasing that also means that fuel costs will rise as well, which I believe makes it even more important to develop more fuel-efficient methods of using energy. However, the world doesn’t like change and would rather stick with using petrol while it is still available.

Also, Forbes has concluded that petroleum engineering is attractive because it is the best combination of the highest wages, fastest growth and the oldest workforce; however it also has the smallest supply of graduates meaning that it has become a very attractive field for rising engineers as it is looking for more engineers to fill up their openings. Actually so many job openings are available for petroleum engineers that oil and gas companies have to actively recruit mechanical engineers as well.

Oil and gas are found deep below the surface of the earth and now finding their locations has become more difficult because of the rate at which the entire world is consuming them. So the primary concern of a petroleum engineer is production of oil and gas by drilling and searching for the source of the precious fuel.

What does this mean for the environment?

Well, petroleum is poisonous for everyone: humans, trees, and environment. Every time you see a curious rainbow in the water on the road, petroleum oil is the cause and is toxic to all forms of life. If it finds its way into large bodies of water fish will immediately; and if it finds its way into humans it could cause birth defects and leukemia as well make people more prone to infection.

There are also other issue with black exhaust that causes problems for our lungs and heart. Not to mention petroleum’s reputations for causing acid rain and climate change. The infamous oil spills will also always be a problem killing many animals in the process.

So despite the awful effects that petroleum has on the environment and its growing scarcity, society has made it a necessity that we cannot avoid. Instead of investing on a search for greener alternatives to this problem, the need for petroleum engineer keeps going up because society does not like change. We don’t respond well to big changes. When things are going well as they are, then why change? – this seems to be the philosophy of the world. Also drilling deeper for oil is currently cheaper than making the switch to environmentally-friendly alternatives. The key word in that sentence is currently. The world will always be driven by economic incentives, and CURRENTLY drilling for more oil is the best option in that respect creating more reason for the need for petroleum engineers to rise.

The Effects of Automobiles on the Environment

Cars are essential to everyone’s life, but they cause so much damage to the environment. The areas that we need to focus on are: air quality, production and fuels

Air Quality

Photo courtesy of TheGuardian.com

Automobiles create about 33% of all U.S. air pollutants in the forms of carbon dioxide, smog and several other toxic chemicals and gases. These air pollutants are released from the tailpipes, which means that humans immediately breathe in the contaminated air now compromising human health making it a more crucial issue to address. It has now become more a health concern than air contaminants released from an industry’s massive “chimney.” However, the world has been much better about attacking this issue – probably because it directly affects them. Even though we have increased the number of cars on the road, the air quality is much better because of the Clean Air Act from 1970. According to HomeGuides, apparently we have almost gotten rid of lead emissions completely.

Production & Disposal

Cartoon courtesy of TreeHugger.com

 

The energy footprint that the production of a car leaves on the environment is because of the materials needed to make them. According to National Geographic, these materials include steel, rubber, glass, plastics, and paints. This makes me question the supposed beneficial effect that hybrids have on the environment because they require much more scarce materials to create, and the amount of energy that car’s production could cancel out their beneficial effect. CarBusters.org says “the average U.S. vehicle (in 2007) required 1129 gallons of gasoline to produce…equivalent to two years worth of gas.”

When cars are disposed, their remains of plastics and toxic lead battery acids are thrown into landfills instead of being recycled resulting in harmful effects directly onto the environment. However, this is another issue that the U.S. has done much better with over time. Fun fact from National Geographic: three quarters of a car can be recycled. The website actually expressed this fact as a positive thing, but this fact means that a quarter of a car ends up in landfills, and automobiles are not exactly the smallest object ever, AND humans buy a new one about every decade. What makes up for this startling detail is that 80 to 90% of the environmental damage that a car causes occurs before the car’s “death”.

Fuel

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Automobiles use petroleum products that require much energy to extract them from the ground damaging the world’s ecosystems. There are also other little details that we tend to ignore. Fuel comes from particular concentrated locations in the world so shipping the oils itself actually requires a sacrifice from the environment as well. Shipping the oil on airplanes, ships, trucks or trains just means that these machines also need to expend scarce resources and release toxic gases in order to ship them to every part of the world. We also can’t forget the risk of an occasional accident in which the oils could spill into the ocean or the road and directly effect a delicate ecosystem.

How do these factors affect the environment?

Percentage of greenhouse gases Photo courtesy of EPA.gov

 

According to the EIA, greenhouse gases allow sunlight to enter the Earth’s atmosphere more than it naturally should. Sometimes sunlight is reflected off the surface as heat, which greenhouse gasses absorb and trap in the atmosphere that we live in. This in turn causes the overall temperature of the Earth to increase as well. These greenhouse gases include: benzene, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons and sulfur dioxide. Fun fact from CarBusters: almost 0.009 metric tons of carbon dioxide are produced for every GALLON of gasoline burned, which means that the average American makes about 11.7 tons of carbon dioxide each year from their cars alone

Other ways that it can affect the environment at a smaller scale is that particulates and pollutants released by cars can be inputted into the soil and waters and then enter the food chain causing biological systems of animals and humans to be compromised. Acid rain is also a concern because it changes the acidity of water sources that animals drink from. Chemicals, most popularly CFCs (chloroflurocarbons), essentially create a thinner ozone layer which is mean to protect the Earth from UV rays.

Why does this matter?

These are just reasons why we need to find alternatives to using petroleum to fuel our cars for transportation. To begin with, we can only reduce use until technology finds a way to make the fuel more efficient or finds an alternative fuel that has no affect on the environment. Fuel efficiency and reducing their harmful effects is the key to improving the current state of the environment.

The Renewable Energy Debate In Court

People Who Say Yes to Investing in Renewable Energy

Photo courtesy of CleanEnergy.org

 

The biggest points that people argue when in favor of investing government subsidies in renewable energy is that it will create jobs and thus a better economy and of course that it will fight environmental problems concerning pollution. The other points are more concerned with being evasive of certain issues in the future. Oil is a scarce resource and once it starts running out and becomes more expensive, a black market will be created and wars will break out over who has possession of the prized substance. Not only that, if we do not learn to find alternative methods of fueling our power-sucking machines then pollution will get worse and worse to the point of affecting a person’s health.

Not only are government subsidies being considered for this pollution project in developing renewable energy, but tax incentives are also being given to those who take it upon themselves to use their new and developed green technology like hybrid cars. Even if the government were to invest in renewable energy, a rising issue that would need to be tackled is that people are wary of actually using it because it’s expensive and new. Money is the best way to convince people to do so, therefore making the tax incentives a very efficient option in jump starting a new wave in the green movement. Also once the technology becomes more available to people, then more will start adopting it as a way of life.

In addition to adding to the job market, some people strongly believe that investing in renewable energy will make the market more competitive which in turn makes for a healthier economy. US News says, “These policies would also help create new competitors to established energy industries that have received decades of subsidies, and general continue to receive them.”

Economically, some make the argument that in the long run, renewable energy in the international market are also very helpful in decreasing the cost of these technologies including wind and solar energy.

People Who Say No to Investing in Renewable Energy

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The side of the debate’s rebuttal to those who believe investments in renewable energy will create new jobs is that if the government isn’t spending that money on renewable energy then it will spend money on a different issue that will create just as many jobs. Also the resources that this green energy will use are just taking away from the resources of another part of the world that is being just as productive. So why bother when the energy industry is alright where it is now? They say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

People on this side of the debate also believe that this part of the energy district can find a way to be competitive in their markets without the help of the government’s money especially since they have gone this far in the private sector without too much help from them. If these projects are actually worth it, then people will invest their own capital in the industry hoping to collect profit from it as well. By then we will know that green technology is definitely worth it.

To put it in perspective, US News has put the issue into terms of numbers: “Since 2007, total federal energy subsidies increased from $17.9 billion to $37.2 billion. Seventy-seven percent of that increase is due to the Obama administration’s stimulus. Renewable subsidies increased 186 percent, led by wind energy, which received a 10-fold increase to nearly $5 billion. Electricity prices have increased by 23 percent in the last five years.” From this type of information gathered, people argue that investing in green technology doesn’t benefit consumers whatsoever meaning that it will not be a successful market to spend the people’s tax dollars on since a profit will be near impossible to generate.

In fact, the Obama administration has spent a considerable amount of the government’s budget in attempting to improve the world’s environmental health, but statistics continually show that it is a failing industry that struggles to turn out a profit, and the world operates on money. If money isn’t being made then it is usually considered not worth the trouble and sacrifice.

To see more about this debate and hundreds of different perspectives please click here.

Renewable Energy: Why Don’t We Use It More If It’s So Great?

Photo courtesy of MSGEnergy.com

 

A majority of people generally think of themselves as pro-green when it comes to taking care of the Earth. Nobody is exactly against the environment. So if we have the technology to save the world, then why don’t more people take advantage of it? It’s expensive and people don’t like change. When people’s lives are going well, and they are able to pay the electricity and oil bills okay they don’t want to risk losing that stability by changing to something new like renewable energy. To take advantage of these opportunities and create a change for the better of the environment, the government needs to create incentives for people to start making a gradual change to a more green society. Fossil fuel prices are rising so a change will occur in the future regardless. According to Truth-Out.Org, Germany is the leading solar energy user in the world. Yet the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, isn’t even close to that and only uses it as 8% of the energy use. So money isn’t the problem. It’s a change in culture.

Why We Love Renewable Energy

Many people automatically say that they are pro-green. We like it because renewable energy is sustainable, meaning that it will never run out, unlike the vast amount of fossil fuels that we still use today. There are many different kinds like: solar power, hydroelectric generators, hydrogen fuel, wind turbines, etc.

One of the great things about renewable energy is that it requires less maintenance than the usual generators. Once the tools are produced, creating the energy is left up to the source rather than labor of the working man.

This also reduced the cost of operation because it runs by itself once the tool is produced. Reduced costs can also come from the fact that it doesn’t originate from a scarce resource whose prices increase because of the need to preserve such a resource.

Renewable energy is also good for the environment because unlike fossil fuels, it does not release harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, a reason as to why the ozone layer around the earth is thinning causing global warming. No waste products means that it doesn’t affect the environment.

There are also economic benefits for some types of renewable energy especially solar energy. Even though they are initially expensive, they often pay for themselves in the long run. Actually according to Truth-Out.org, solar energy is known to be the best type of renewable energy because it doesn’t create greenhouse gases even in terms of production of the solar panels which cannot be said for all forms of renewable energy.

What We Don’t Like About Renewable Energy

Even though we talk about renewable energy, it only provides about 14% of the energy that the world uses according to Bioscience.com.

Renewable energy often has trouble creating the same amount of power that fossil fuels make because of its inefficiency. This means that people must either reduce the amount of energy they use or we need to build more efficient operations. People don’t want to be forced to change their lifestyles to accommodate the environment. In their opinion, the environment doesn’t take precedence over the other issues in the life so one reason people don’t take advantage of renewable energy technologies is because they don’t like change.

Renewable energy is also not completely reliable even though it is sustainable. We cannot control when we receive it and how much we receive. It often relies on weather like the sun or water. For example, hydroelectric engines require rain, wind turbines require movement in the air, and solar panels need the sun. All of these are unpredictable and inconsistent.

I think what really sets people off from renewable energy is that it is very expensive. This is primarily because it is a new technology. Money is the most effective incentive when it comes to people whether it be a negative or positive incentive, and in this case this rule of thumb works against the use of renewable energy.

Most forms of renewable energy have its drawbacks. On Bioscience.com, they list the advantages and disadvantages for numerous types of energy. For example, hydroelectric plants require mass amounts of land to store water (specifically land for that is productive for agriculture), and the plants themselves cause environmental problems.

The question that everybody asks and considers is whether it is worth the cost. It is a simple value question. It’s not just the money though. We need to make it a part of the culture but people aren’t ready for a change. The government is the best at facilitating change faster than it can naturally happen since that is what it is there for. Knowing that money is the best incentive for people to do anything, the government could potentially give those who use renewable energy a tax break. However to integrate a green culture, society will require a gradual change if it is to ever happen.