3.3. 2: Evaluating Energy Sources

December 5th, 2011

Whatever energy source used, wether a renewable or non-renewable one, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. These can broadly be grouped into economic, environmental and social categories - each of which has different positive and negative impacts depending on the situation in which the energy resource is to be used. Oil and Solar power are given a s examples below.

Oil

Advantages:

Extraction technology is well developed

Can be transported relatively cheaply and in large amounts by pipeline and ocean going oil tankers

Large oil reserves still exist

Oil provides more ethan just an energy source - e.g. Plastics

Efficient energy source

Disadvantages:

Most of the worlds oil reserves tend to be where consumption is low and not spread evenly around the planet

Combustion of oil leads to climate change through the release of carbon dioxide

Accidents in extraction and transport can lead to pollution causing habitat destruction

Expense of dealing with pollution

As supply is used up newer supply sources are more difficult to extract due to where they are (Arctic) or the form in which the oil exists (shale tar)

Solar Power

Advantages:

Sunlight is free

Does not produce green house gases

When used for heating well insulated houses can be cheaper than coal or oil

Can operate on small scale as well as large

Disadvantages:

Only useful were sunlight is plentiful - not very effective during Northern Hemisphere winter

Takes up a lot of space for commercial solar harvesting

Aesthetically problematic in rural areas

Technology still expensive

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