Ah, the evil carbon fuels. Carbon fuels that were once exalted as the power source for the industrial revolution are now demonized because of global warming. There are, however, positive aspects to carbon fuels.
Positive Aspects of Carbon Fuels
Carbon fuels are those fuels which come from the remains of ancient plants and animals. They include oil (petroleum), natural gas (such as methane and propane) and coal. Much has been said about how horrible carbon fuels are because they tend to produce large amounts of pollution and contribute massive amounts of greenhouse gases to the global warming problem. They are also non-renewable, which means that once we have used all of the carbon fuels that are stored within the Earth, the proverbial tank will be empty. Indeed, one can argue that control of carbon fuels will become the basis of many wars between countries. All of this being said, there are still positive aspects to carbon fuels.
The first is the availability of them at this time. Petroleum, or crude oil, is rather easy to find – there are many stores and reservoirs of the black stuff hidden below the Earth's crust. The same goes for natural gas, as the pockets of gas can be found and harvested just below the surface of the Earth. Coal is even easier to find – it can be mined (sometimes strip mined) from within caves or in shafts dug into the ground. Carbon fuels are also relatively easily transported from place to place in this day and age, meaning that you don't need to use them right where they are found. This is not so with other types of energy sources such as geothermal and hydropower which are restricted to the area in question and the length to which power lines can be run.
Other positives of carbon fuels include ease of use. Since carbon fuels have been used as a combustible energy source for centuries, most of the machinery and engines that we use in everyday life have been developed to burn carbon fuels. Developing machines that use alternative energy sources can be much more difficult as is adapting existing machinery to use different power sources. Carbon fuel run power plants are also much easier to build and use – you can erect one almost anywhere, as long as you can get the carbon fuel to the plant. It is much harder to find a suitable location for a power plant that runs off of alternative energy sources, such as hydro power or wind power.
The positive aspects to carbon fuels really boil down to a timing element. At the current time, we have plenty of them. At the moment, all of our machinery from cars to power plants is designed to use them. At the moment, we have developed methods to use these fuels extremely efficiently whereas something like solar power is only 15 percent efficient.
The issues confronting us with carbon fuels, however, are also timing oriented. While the positive aspects of carbon fuels now are clear, they disappear in the near future. How will we deal with shortages in supplies and the resulting rising costs? How will we deal with the continual greenhouse gases produced by our use of these fuels? In short, do we worry about tomorrow or not?
While there are definitely positive aspects of carbon fuels, there are also many disadvantages. Alas, the good news is that we can control our future in this regard. The question, of course, is whether we will choose to do so.
Rick Chapo is with Solar Companies - a directory of solar energy companies.