Peak oil: what are our solutions?

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Andy Dingley

Offshore wind turbines at Barrow Offshore Wind off Walney Island in the Irish Sea.

Fossil fuels, global warming, and foreign oil. Problems with fuels have become more serious and more imminent each year. The impending peak oil crisis, global warming and increasing dependence on foreign oil are growing in prevalence, but what are the alternatives? One of the most important alternative energy source we have today is wind turbines, because it’s cheap, effective, and already being used.

Wind turbines are one of the cheapest sources of alternative energy available today. Not only does each turbine produce the same amount of energy it took to make the machine in between 3 and 8 months, but it also doesn’t produce any harmful emissions while making electricity. Wind energy is so useful because of the efficiency of the mechanisms.

Turbines aren’t used without controversy, however. Some turbines placed in Altamont Pass are infamous for killing many raptors, including golden eagles. These turbines were an early style that spun at much higher speeds which were harder for the birds to avoid. Furthermore, this problem is site-specific, and wind turbines wouldn’t be as hazardous to wildlife in other areas. The outdated high-speed turbines and the high number of raptors and other birds that live in the area caused a bigger than normal number of birds to die.

Activists against wind power, like the Not In My BackYard (NIMBY) movement, are often ready to do a lot in order to prevent their skylines from being polluted by wind turbines. Opponents of wind farms try to preserve the landscape around their homes, though generally they are proponents of wind farms in others’ backyards. Surprisingly, these activists rarely continue their struggle once the area around their own homes is either populated by wind turbines or the energy companies abandon the area. Some activists accept the changed landscape if the battle in their neighborhood is lost.

Despite the opinions of these activists, wind energy is one of the best alternatives for fossil fuels for multiple reasons. It is the only emission-free energy source currently in production. Not only is it emission-free, but it also doesn’t need any fuel source like coal, gas, or radioactive material. Nuclear power is radioactive, and natural gas needs gas and has emissions. Other emission-free and fuel-free energy sources, like wave energy, aren’t in production at all, let alone used as widely as wind energy.

To move forward towards a green future, more people need to learn about alternative energy, and work on making them better and maybe less intrusive for people like those in the NIMBY movement. However, as we get closer and closer peak oil, energy may become more important than the view out our windows.

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