A Renewed Hope

by Tiziana Bottino,

For the entire duration of his two terms, the Obama administration has bolstered the use of clean and renewable energy.  After the 2015 Paris agreement is set to enter into force on 4 November, the pressure to reduce CO2 emission from the second biggest emitter in the world will officially kick in.  In spite of this, a paper recently published in Nature Climate Change concluded that, as of right now, the U.S. is unlikely to meet its target of 28 percent reduction compared to the 2005 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2025[1].

 

Paired with environmental concerns, oil is becoming more scarce around the world, and its extraction is increasingly becoming costlier and intricate, making renewable energy look more appealing than ever.  In particular, wind energy shows great potential to provide the United States with virtually unlimited, cost-effective, clean energy.

 

Wind energy is indirectly derived from the sun heating the atmosphere, making it sustainable and showing potential in aiding America to become completely energy independent.  Some externalities that are not usually taken in consideration when talking about fossil fuels are health impacts.  In the United States alone, the estimated economic value of health impacts associated with fossil fuel electricity is $0.14-$0.35/kWh, or $361.7-886.5 billion annually[2], and that is without even considering its wider social impacts.  Therefore, there are enormous health and economic benefits associated with clean energy, and continuing the expansion of wind energy, such as the recently completed first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, could bring about additional unexpected benefits.

 

Even in light of recent natural disasters such as the deadly Hurricane Matthew that wreaked havoc in the Caribbean islands and the state of Florida, harnessing the incredible power of the wind might help us see the light when faced with disastrous effects.  Last July, a Japanese engineer and his team installed the first prototype of an egg beater-shaped wind turbine built to withstand, and harness, the enormous power generated by a hurricane[3].

 

Wind energy has its limitation, but even taking some of such limitations into consideration, its advantages are plain to see. Constrained potential is the fraction of gross potential when unsuitable areas, environmental and social limitations have all been excluded[4].

 

According to an Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, in 2005 the United States emitted 5.96 billion tonnes of CO2,consumed 3816 TWh of electricity, yet its constrained wind potential was of 2960 TWh and 560 TWh for onshore and offshore wind power respectively[5].

 

In conclusion, continued investment in the development and use of wind power as one of the main energy sources in the United States, could bring about economic, health and environmental benefits beyond what we can anticipate.

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Roheeni Saxena, US Unlikely to Meet Targets Set After Paris Climate Agreement, (Ars Technica), October 6, 2016, http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/us-unlikely-to-meet-targets-set-after-paris-climate-agreement/.

[2] B Machol and S Rizk, “Economic Value of U.S. Fossil Fuel Electricity Health Impacts,” Environment international. 52 (December 19, 2012), accessed October 7, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23246069.

[3] Junko Ogura and Jenni Marsh, “Storm Chasers: The Typhoon Turbine That Could Power Japan for 50 Years,” CNN (CNN), September 28, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/27/asia/typhoon-catchers-japan-challenergy/.

[4] John Andrews and Nick Jelley, Energy Science: Principles, Technologies, and Impacts, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 170.

[5] Ibid., 171.

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