Posted: August 14th, 2013
Global Warming and Energy Policy
Global warming has been one of the major issues of discussion world over since the realization that too much human activities, such as burning fossil fuels puts the whole globe at risk. Fossil fuel burning and emission of green house gases have been major contributors to global warming. This has driven creation of policies that seek sustainable energy sources and continued reduction of reliance on fossil fuels that continue to pose a serious threat. Government authorities within various countries are seeking to implement policies that can ensure sustainability of energy. United States in particular has many policies considering it is one of the biggest importers, producers and users of fossil fuel. Congressman Jim Bridenstine for the first district of Oklahoma is one of the congressional representatives that strongly believe in reduction of reliance on foreign oil while increasing other forms of clean energy (Bridenstine, 2013).
Effect of burning fossil fuels on global warming
To understand the effect of burning fossil fuels on global warming, it is worth to define what global warming means. Global warming is the overall increase in the surface temperatures of the earth. This is caused by the increase of heat from the sun that is trapped within the atmosphere. When too much is trapped, the temperatures increase. The main trapper of heat in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide, which traps the heat from the sun and does not allow it to decimate. Therefore, increase in carbon dioxide emission increases the earth temperatures.
When fossil fuels are burnt, the by-product is carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere to trap more heat. This action increases the overall temperatures on the surface of the earth considering fossil fuels are used worldwide. Fossil fuels are among the largest producers of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Evidence from research shows that over the last 150 years when burning of fossil fuels has been used as the most reliable source of energy, the atmospheric carbon has increased by more than 25%. This has seen the earth’s temperatures go up by one degree Fahrenheit. This has a substantial effect to the global climate. With an increase in temperatures, the glaciers are likely to melt at a faster rate while many inland areas are likely to experience draught. The effect will not only be on human beings but also animals especially those that hibernate. Increased temperatures are threatening some of the polar animals such as the polar bear.
Not only do fossil fuels burn releasing carbon dioxide into the air, but they also emit other pollutant gases into the air such as carbon monoxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These pollutant gasses cause serious health issues to animals and affect the environment, as well. In the air, such pollutants are chemically transformed into other harmful substances such as sulfuric acid as well as carbonic acids. These cause acidic rain that affects the environment such as polluting water, soil and harming plants. Effects of burning fossil fuels are many and widely varying. It is for such reasons that many people are seeking greener or cleaner sources of energy in order to reduce reliance on burning of the harmful fossil fuels.
Bridenstine knows better about these effects and supports an energy reform policy that will see the reduction of foreign oil, and one that would see a lift in the restriction on clean energy drilling within the nation as the solution to the elimination of foreign oil. He cites that some of the clean energy that can replace the foreign oil includes wind, nuclear power, geothermal and solar energy. He further suggests that to encourage people to reduce their reliance of oil, a tax increase should raise the prices of oil in order to discourage people from using it. The main issue that Bridenstine is concerned with here is the reduction of fossil fuel consumption that continues to pose a great threat by increasing global warming (Bridenstine 2013). He supports exploration of green energy that has the potential to reduce the amount of carbon emission in the atmosphere.
Currently, the major source of energy in the United States comes from burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Coal and fossil fuels are among the major causes of global warming in the whole world as explained. In recognition to their harmful effects, many authorities are coming up to impose regulations and policies that are believed to improve the condition. However, not all the policies and regulations are working, which raises many questions over having them. Largely, some of these policies are failing due to other costs involved. For instance, imposing a higher tax on oil has affects all activities utilizing oil as well as others that do not utilize oil directly such as manufacturing. When the cost of oil goes up, transportation costs increase, leaving many to bear the burden. Although this is a move to reduce the use of fossil fuels, it makes it harder for people to do business considering there are little alternatives to replace them. Some of the energy alternatives available as energy sources are natural gases, bio-fuels and electric energy that can be used with vehicles (Bridenstine 2013). The progress on exploitation of these alternatives will take decades before they can be fully commercialized to replace oil. Thus, some of these policies such as imposing higher taxes for oil are associated with other costs.
Although not all the policies may work, there are policies that can work as Bridenstine suggests. Reducing reliance on foreign oil, as well as increasing the use of clean and renewable energy are policies that can help in achieving the two objectives of reducing oil consumption in the United States. This can be done through policies that seek to increase the investment on clean energy while reducing importation of oil gradually, instead of doing it at once or imposing higher taxes on carbon or fossil fuel. Investing in some of the clean energies such as wind and solar energy can be quite cost saving in the long-term, although it requires a large initial investment in order to realize the benefits. Although many would think that a tradeoff between economic growth and energy conservation, investing in clean energy can achieve both goals. It can create more jobs in the clean energy industry while saving costs associated with maintaining a safer level of carbon emission. Further, it will reduce the amount greenhouse gas emission associated with burning fossil fuels.
Despite the fact that some of the policies have a cost effect on other goods, it provides an incentive for goods that require large amounts of burning fossil fuels in order to produce. One of the policies that aim at encouraging companies to use better sources of energy is having a carbon tax (Metcalf and Weisbach 501). This policy aims are discouraging producers from using too much carbon in their production and embrace cleaner sources. The policy requires that goods leading to relatively higher carbon emissions such as electricity generated from coal should see a higher carbon tax, thereby increasing its costs while products that do not require huge amounts of carbon emission such as services should have a lower carbon tax. Increasing of such products’ prices encourages producers to seek better sources of energy (Dinan 1). Metcalf and Weisbach cite, “The purpose of such a tax, which we will generally refer to carbon tax, is to internalize externalities associated with anthropologic climate change,” (500). They further cite that without a carbon tax, individuals would be facing prices that are distorted. This is because activities that produce carbon emissions are cheap since the producers may not consider the costs suffered by others due to their activities. Therefore, a tax on the amount of carbon produced forces the producers or those who emit it in large amounts to consider the consequences of their carbon emitting activities.
Policies on reduction of dependency on foreign oil
Bridenstine supports a reform that would see the reduction of foreign dependence on oil. Although a carbon tax does not aim at reducing the dependence on foreign oil, it helps in reducing the emission of carbon by discouraging the use of fossil fuels by companies. However, a carbon tax is a good policy for ensuring that all individuals pay attention to the harmful effects of fossil fuels (Metcalf and Weisbach 500). This is a step towards reducing consumption of fossil fuel especially oil, which falls under the same goal of reducing foreign oil dependency. However, several policies and measures are put in place to reduce dependence on foreign oil (The PEW Environment Group 1).
One of the best ways of reducing consumption of foreign oil is replacing the use of fossil fuels to power cars. This can be done through the various sources of energy that can be used for powering vehicles such as hydrogen and electricity. However, this would only account for a 40% reduction if all cars and light trucks used other sources since only this percentage of oil in United States is used in powering automobiles. Another ten percent of the oil goes to purposes such as production of electricity, heating and cooling homes amongst other domestic uses. The larger portion of oil, fifty percent goes to industries for other purposes such as making plastics and production of other materials that are not meant for energy production. Although this will not eliminate the amount of foreign oil needed, it will reduce the need for oil importation in United States by almost 40% since not all vehicles can use other alternatives (Feldstein, 1).
Currently, United States is one of the biggest importers and consumers of oil. Much of its oil is imported, which increases its reliance on the stability of other countries from where it imports oil (The PEW Environment Group 3). Thus, a need to reduce the amount of foreign oil is necessary, which can be done using other alternatives of energy to power automobile and to do some of the production (Feldstein, 1). Additionally, United States need not only reduce reliance on foreign oil, but also reduce their reliance on oil by seeking other means of energy sources. As Bridenstine argues, United States should have energy reforms that ensure reduction of reliance on foreign oil and those that encourage exploration of clean energy to reduce global warming that is the main issue associated with burning of fossil fuels.
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