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This article shows insight into sustainable development and long term sustainability of environment through prudent use of resources besides exploring alternative resources of energy to the fullest.

This article shows insight into sustainable development and long term sustainability of environment through prudent use of resources besides exploring alternative resources of energy to the fullest.



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  • RENEWABLE ENERGY ALTERNATIVES AS VEHICLE FOR LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN PARADOX OF GLOBALIZED ECONOMY Dr. Prashant Mehta, Faculty of Science, National Law University, Jodhpur Email: Introduction 'Sustainability' and 'Sustainable development' have become over interacting themes in environmental policy in recent years. None the less, the concepts are often poorly understood and we are only beginning to get to grips with the implications of developing a more sustainable society. Thinking and practice on sustainable development are advancing rapidly. The original definition of sustainable development was that given by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". 'Sustainable Development' usually refers to some form of modern technological society, with business taking responsibility for its impact on society and the environment. It is a process that can be maintained in its current state of productivity over long period of time. Alternatively Sustainable development is about growth and Sustainability is about costs and benefits of Today’s actions against costs and benefits of Tomorrow’s actions. Since energy is at the hub of modern society more so in developing countries, it is also an essential component of sustainable development. In real sense sustainable
  • development is about more than the energy and environment. It is based on four components:  Identification and sensible or prudent use of resources  Protecting the environment globally  Environment friendly inclusive Economic Growth  Social Engineering Progress The main target of sustainable development and sustainability is a better quality of life for everyone now and for generations to come. IS THERE A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION FOR 6.5 BILLION HUMANS ON THE PLANET WITH RESPECT TO USE OF ENERGY AND ENERGY ALTERNATIVES? The answer is yes, there is in form of RENEWABLE / ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES. None the less, it is clear that nationally and internationally we should not be using up precious energy resources indiscriminately. Instead we should moving from non- renewable to renewable energy resources besides developing more prudent ways of using them. Energy Use There is a combination of factors by which energy problems and energy issues are back at the top of the world's agenda. They include rising oil and gas prices, the prospect of diminishing fossil fuel resources, rising atmospheric pollution caused not only by oil and gas emissions but also by burning of domestic fuels, climate change with evident effects on global warming, and increasing concern about security of continuous supply, thereby underlining the vulnerability of all industrial and developing countries. Yet these factors are accompanied by continuing growth in world population, and rising energy demand.
  • The basic reason that we have a problem is due to exponential growth which creates a strongly non-equilibrium use of our resources. Its not great to state that the failure to understand the concept of exponential growth by planners and / or legislators, is the single biggest problem in all of Environmental Studies and / or Management. The Two Principle Problems with Energy Management can be outlined as follows:  Failure for policy makers to understand the concept of exponential growth.  Failure for legislation to be formulated and passed to give us a long term energy strategy. Accurate trend extrapolation is the most important part of future planning. However, failure to assume exponential growth will always lead to a disaster. World Energy Consumption is given below in figure:
  • It is quite evident from the figures given above that unless we find alternatives ways of developing and using energy we will be on verge of energy crises. Humans in various ways use energy. The main use is in transportation, industry, space heating, cooking, agriculture, and leisure. Since 1950, most of the world's economic growth has relied on non-renewable fossil fuel energy from oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy resources. Non-Renewable Sources of Energy Oil - Most of the world's energy today comes from the burning of oil. Humans use oil for various purposes like Transportation, Industry, Agriculture, Residential Uses, Electric utilities etc. Crude oil (or petroleum) is composed of more than a hundred different hydrocarbon compounds. The refining process separates crude oil into many different commercial products including gases, gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and asphalt. Crude oil also contains petrochemicals, which are compounds that are used in the production of fertilizers, plastics, paints, pesticides, medicines, and synthetic fibers like nylon. Experts disagree over how long the world's identified and unidentified crude oil resources will last. Reserves are identified deposits of a non-renewable fossil fuel or mineral resource from which the resource can be extracted profitably at present prices with current technology. At present consumption rates, world crude oil reserves will be economically depleted in about 40 years. Natural Gas - In its underground gaseous state, natural gas is a mixture of 50 to 90% by volume of methane gas (CH4) and smaller amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10). Propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10) are separated from natural gas and are stored as liquefied petroleum in special pressurized tanks. These two substances are primarily used as fuel for heating and cooking. Methane (CH4) is more important economically. Methane (CH4) is burned in
  • furnaces to supply residential and commercial buildings with heat, used to heat water in hot water tanks, used in power plants to generate electricity, and used in a variety of ways in the organic chemistry industry. Several non-hydrocarbon gases are also found in natural gas mixtures. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Carbon dioxide (CO2), and Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) may be found in substantial proportions. Nitrogen is inert and noncombustible. If present in significant quantities, it reduces the heating value of the natural gas mixture and must be separated before the fuel is used for the commercial purposes. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is another unwanted component of the gas mixture. Normally, it is removed from the mixture to raise heating value, reduce volume, and support even combustion properties. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is removed from natural gas by a process similar to that used in crude oil refining. Coal - is formed in several stages as the remains of plants are subjected to intense heat and pressure over millions of years. It is a complex mixture of organic compounds, with 30% to 98% carbon by weight plus varying amounts of water and small amounts of nitrogen and sulfur. Humans have had a long history of using coal. Coal has been used to generate heat and power, for the production of metallurgical coke, and as a source of various aromatic compounds utilized in synthesizing dyes, solvents, and drugs. Burning coal produces larger amounts of SOx, NOx, and particulate matter than other fossil fuels. Nuclear Fission - By the end of this century, 1800 nuclear power plants were supposed to supply 21% of the world's energy through the process of nuclear fission. By 1991, after 44 years of development and enormous government subsidies, about 424 commercial nuclear reactors were producing 7% of the world's energy. Another serious problem associated with generating power from fission reactors is the production of nuclear waste.
  • Fossil fuel resources are finite in supply and are responsible for much of the world's pollution and environmental degradation. Nuclear energy was supposed to be producing a significant proportion of the world's energy requirements by the year 2000. However, problems associated with waste storage, safety concerns, and building and maintenance costs have slowed the use of this energy source. Non-Renewable Energy Use - Their Impact on the Environment Many of our sources of energy generation influence the health of the environment. As a group, fossil fuels have the greatest negative effect. The burning of any of these resources produces some form of atmospheric pollution. Coal is by far the dirtiest of these nonrenewable resources. The combustion of coal releases large amounts of Carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and small amounts of highly toxic uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury, rubidium, thallium, and zinc. These chemicals contribute to the enhancement of the green house effect, photochemical smog, acid deposition, and can accumulated in the environment where they can affect the health of plants, animals and human beings. The mining of coal creates acidic and highly toxic tailings. Precipitation falling on these sediments can leach the acids and toxins into surface and sub-surface waters where they can influence living organisms. The burning of petroleum fuels emits about 30% of the Carbon dioxide (CO2) added to the atmosphere annually. Moreover, these emissions are primarily responsible for the increase in the concentration of Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere over the last 50 years. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the dominant green house gas. Its increase in the atmosphere may bring about a warming of the Earth's climate. The use of oil for energy also releases hydrocarbons and Nitrogen oxides (NO2). Emissions of both chemicals contribute to the formation of photochemical smog. Nitrogen oxides (NO 2) on its own can undergo chemical reaction in the atmosphere to form acidic deposition. Because of its unique global distribution, much of the oil extracted from the ground must be transported by pipe or ship to a few nations who dominate its consumption.
  • Occasionally, transported oil is spilled into the environment where it takes its toll on aquatic and wildlife. Renewable Energy Energy can also be derived from several sources that are infinite in their supply. These renewable sources of energy include the energy from the sun, moving water, biomass, moving wind, geothermal energy, tidal energy etc. Each of these renewable sources of energy is brief discussed below. Solar Energy - The simplest method of generating energy from the sun involves the conversion of sunlight into heat. Humans have constructed passive solar heating systems, like windowed homes, to capture sunlight directly within structures for the production of low-temperature space heat. Humans have also constructed more elaborate systems, known as active solar heating systems, where specially designed collectors concentrate solar energy for the production of heat. A fan or a pump is then used to re-distribute this energy for space-heating or water-heating needs.
  • Solar radiation can also be converted by photovoltaic cells directly into electrical energy. Most solar cells consist of layers of purified silicon. Trace amounts of gallium arsenide or cadmium sulfide are added so that the resulting semiconductor emits a small electrical current when struck by light. By the year 2010, solar cells could supply as much of the world's energy as nuclear power does today at a lower cost and much less environmental risk. The main advantage is that it is pollution free. The main Drawbacks are Solar cells right now have high costs, Low efficiency (05%-15%), lack of adequate storage materials (batteries), and finally the high cost to the consumer. Hydroelectric Power - In large-scale hydropower projects, high dams are built across large rivers to create large reservoirs. The stored water is then allowed to flow through huge pipes at controlled rates, spinning turbines and producing electricity. Hydroelectric plants rarely need to be shut down, and they produce no emissions of carbon dioxide or other air pollutants during operation. Te main advantage is No pollution, Very high efficiency (80%), little waste heat, low cost per KWH. k loads. However, hydropower has some drawbacks. The reservoirs of large-scale projects flood huge areas, destroy wildlife habitats, uproot people, and decrease fish harvests below the dam, Fish are endangered species; Sediment buildup and dam failure; changes watershed characteristics; alters hydrological cycle (just like in theri dam project in India). Wind Power - Worldwide, by 1990, there were over 20,000 wind turbines, grouped in clusters called wind farms, which feed power to a utility grid. They produce electricity equal to 1600 megawatts. The cost of producing electricity with wind farms is about one-half that of a new nuclear power plant, and should be cost competitive with coal by 1995. Wind power experts project that by the middle of the next century, wind power could supply 10% of the world's electricity. Wind power can be used only in areas with sufficient winds. Backup electricity from a utility company or from an energy storage system is necessary when the wind dies down. The main advantage is supplemental
  • power in windy areas; best alternative for individual homeowner whereas the main disadvantage is highly variable source; relatively low efficiency (30%); more power than is needed is produced when the wind blows, noise of rotary blades, killing of birds and efficient energy storage is thus required. Energy From Biomass - Biomass is organic plant matter produced by solar energy through photosynthesis. It includes wood, agricultural wastes, and garbage. Some of this plant matter can be burned as solid fuel or converted into bio-fuels. In 1989, biomass, mostly from the burning of wood and manure to heat buildings and cook food, supplied about 15% of the world's energy and about one-half the energy used in Less Developed Countries. The main advantage of Biomass waste (wood products, sewage, paper etc) is that they are natural by products of our society; reuse as an energy source would be good and it can provide definite co-generation possibilities. The main disadvantages are Particulate pollution from biomass burners, and transportation is not possible due to moisture content. Geothermal Energy - On a human time scale, geothermal energy is inexhaustible. However, geothermal power generation does have one important limitation. Geographically, geothermal energy is only found in locations where the hot molten magma of the Earth's mantle comes in contact with groundwater near the surface to produce wet steam, dry steam (very hot steam with no water droplets), geo-pressurized brines (natural deposits of hot salty water) or hot water. The main advantages: very high efficiency; low initial costs since you already got steam were as Disadvantage is non- renewable (more is taken out than can be put in by nature); highly local resource. Besides this Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, Tidal energy and Hydrogen (Fuel of Future) burning can also provide some viable alternatives to our energy crises. They can help us conserve energy and at the same time help us lower pollution.
  • Sustainable Energy Use From an environmental stand point, our current patterns of energy use are plagued with three major problems:  Energy derived from the combustion of fossil fuels creates large scale environmental degradation in the form of global warming, acid deposition and various forms of atmospheric pollution.  Supplies of fossil fuels are limited.  Many of human processes that require energy use this resource in a highly inefficient manner. Projections of energy use into the middle of the next century suggest that demand for this resource will increase by approximately 400%. This increase in consumption will be driven by population and economic growth. However, environmental degradation and constraints on supplies of fossil fuels will force the human population to modify the way it uses and consumes energy. Future energy use by humans will be modified because of economics and concern for the state of the environment. In short, energy use will become more sustainable. The move toward more sustainable energy use will be characterized by the following future trends:  Reduced use of fossil fuels because of the need for environmental protection and increases in resource costs.  Increased use of technologies that make the burning of fossil fuels safer for the environment. For example, the installation of smokestack scrubbers reduces the amount of sulfur released from the burning of coal.
  •  The development of more efficient human systems of energy use. Studies suggest that industrialized economies can significantly reduce their use of energy through conservation and technological innovation.  Increase reliance on renewable energy resources like biomass, solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectricity.  Development of new technologies for the production of energy. Nuclear fusion research is currently taking place in several countries. Some scientists predict that fusion may become a major source of energy for human needs within 50 years. Fusion produces far less dangerous radiation than fission and very little waste. Its fuel, deuterium, is also virtually inexhaustible. Concluding Theme The importance of this topic cannot be over emphasized by any stretch of our imagination. If we have to address the above issue, we have to think radically and on many dimensions. Last but not the least we also have to initiate energy conservation. Thus moving to renewable / alternative energy sources will become vehicle of sustainable development. References and Bibliography 1. Rai, G. D. (1995): Solar Energy Utilization, Khanna Publishers, Delhi 2. Rai, G. D. (1995): Non-conventional Sources of Energy, Khanna Publishers, Delhi 3. Sukhatme, S. P. (1984): Solar Energy – Principles of Thermal Collection and Storage, Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Company, New Delhi 4. Boucher, Keith (1975): Global Climate, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York. 5. Detwyler, Thomas R. (1971): Man's Impact on Environment, Mc. Graw Hill Book Company, New York. 6. Halis, Odabase (1973): Environmental Problems and their International Implications. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, Colorado. 7. J. A. Turner, "A Realizable Renewable Energy Future," Science 285 (1999): 687-689. 8. R. Edwards, "The Big Break" [wave power], New Scientist (3 October 1998): 30-33. 9. N. Fell, "Deep Heat" [geothermal energy], New Scientist (22 February 2003): 40-42
  • 10. P. Hoffmann, Tomorrow's energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and the Prospects for a cleaner planet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001)