The most recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has U.S. citizens and government officials crying out for alternative energy plans.
The Gulf spill, also knows as the Deepwater Horizon Spill, continues to release 210,000-1,100,000 gallons of crude oil daily and is expected to surpass the Alaskan Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 as the most devastating human caused disaster ever to occur.
A 52-page exploration and environmental impact plan stated that â€œit is unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface spill will occur from the proposed activitiesâ€ and â€œdue to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected.â€ However, by April 30, the Coast Guard received reports that oil had already begun to wash up onto wildlife refuges on the Louisiana Coast.
Many are worried that this is just the beginning of disastrous oil spills.
“We have to solve this problem,â€ said Dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics Steve Murray. Murray was a member of the Federal Advisory Committees for Minerals Management Service (MMS) for six years during the Clinton and Bush administration. â€œWeâ€™re dependent on oil but there will be a point where fossil fuels will no longer be able to meet our world’s needs. There are alternatives that exist and the more that we involve them in our everyday lives, the less weâ€™ll be depended on the non-renewables.â€
The solution can be a combination of many things, including an increase in mass transit, energy-efficient appliances, products made from recycled materials and fuel efficient vehicles.
U.S. automakers will be required to raise the average fuel economy of new cars and light trucks from 25 mpg to at least 35 mpg by 2020. This will save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day and significantly reduce global warming pollution, according to the Tampa Tribune.
â€œThe U.S. is going to have to consider wind farming, solar energy and various alternatives in order to wean ourselves off our dependence on oil and gas,â€ Murray said. â€œNone of them are problem-free, but they focus on renewable energy.â€
Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.
Solar energy uses panels, pumps and fans to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Solar lighting reduces energy consumption, solar thermal constitutes water heating, space heating, and space cooling. Ventilation, water treatment, cooking and electrical generation can all be effectively supported by solar energy.
Wind turbines and windmills are successful ways to convert wind energy to useful forms of electricity and mechanical power. Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy consumes no fuel and emits no air pollution.
Geothermal power is extracted from heat stored beneath the earthâ€™s surface and is cost effective, reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped inside the earth and can potentially help alleviate global warming if used in place of fossil fuels. These resources are supposedly ample enough to supply human energy needs but itâ€™s been difficult to be profitably exploited.
â€œWhat we need is something that will replace oil,â€ Murray said. “The leadership has to come from the federal folks who I think have had trouble historically looking beyond short-term periods. These environmental periods canâ€™t be fixed in a year yet we tend to evaluate our elected officials on what they do in a two-year period.â€
In the meantime, some CSUF students are doing what they can to minimize their own carbon footprints.
â€œI have been seriously looking into hybrid cars,â€ said junior American studies major Brittany Napier. â€œThe government is taking their sweet time with plans to wean us off oil so Iâ€™ll just do it myself and get a hybrid.â€
Other students are simply watching their everyday habits to better the environment.
â€œItâ€™s really simple and easy and a little goes a long way,â€ said freshman psychology major Jessica Leone. â€œJust by turning the lights off in an empty room, taking shorter showers, recycling, using reusable water jugs rather than bottles, and carpooling or riding a bike. Imagine if everyone was environmentally conscious. The world would be a better place.â€
Murray is adamant that the issue of oil dependence needs to be taken seriously now.
â€œWe need to be having a very serious conversation about this,â€ Murray said. â€œWe have to solve this problem. One of the top priorities for America is to determine what its long-range plan is and that plan has to shift away from non-renewable sources.â€