SUNSHINE TO SAVE A DYING PLANET BY RANDEE CARCANO

The disastrous effects of oil production and spillage on the environment has motivated the move towards research, discovery and deployment of alternative clean and renewable energy sources.

Itís time for people to actively educate themselves on the necessity of utilizing renewable clean energy sources in order to restore a healthy environment. My research was most encouraging and hopeful for the environment as there are numerous countries and communities, industries and major corporations participating in and promoting present and future designs of renewable clean energy sources. However, our current preferred method of energy management is through fossil fuels. This paper will focus specifically on oil, which has devastating long-term deleterious affects on the environment caused mainly by oil production and spillage.

The Contamination

The beauty of the earth is not yet beyond our imagination or memories but if we continue to abuse her natural resources someday it will be. Today in America we donít have to think very hard to remember an amazing Spring morning, the sun shining in an absolutely wondrous blue sky, the heat of the sun feeling warm and protective yet the air is divinely perfect in temperature. The lake ahead spreads across a vast opening with a range of snow capped mountains framing the landscape beyond. Ducks and geese swimming and ducking under the water line, and white sea gulls swoop down breech the water and swoop upward. There are hidden birds singing, and somewhere an owl is hooting, it is pure ethereal beauty. You would think humans shouldnít have the ability to destroy such profound loveliness, but unfortunately we do.

When crude oil spills into a waterway it critically imbalances the ecology of the spill region and increases the extinction of endangered species of animals. It kills marine mammals, reptiles; and birds that feed by diving for plants or marine life. Due to the chemical toxicity of oil, they are poisoned by consuming contaminated food or are smothered or drown by the oiling of their bodies.

Not only animals and plants are affected, in some spill regions humans beings are affected also. The household that counts on fishing for sustenance now must go to a supermarket to purchase food. The rippling effects to a community in the spill region include hotels, restaurants, shops, and tourism which is compromised when closure of beaches, fishing grounds, and boating activities must be enforced. A great and varied community of entities that developed, grew, and thrived on a profoundly beautiful and rich ecology now must face an uncertain future. A horrible yet true example of one of the biggest oil spills in the United States is the Exxon Valdez disaster.

On a Spring day in March of 1989, a fossil fuel bearing tanker ran aground off Bligh Reef splitting its sides open dumping 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the spectacular blue waters of Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska. The black mass spread over the surface like a shadow of death ruining the ecosystem forever. The oiling of this landscape covered over 1,300 miles of beach, 200 miles of which were deeply soiled. The Exxon Valdez "oil penetrated deeply into the cobble and boulder beaches that are common on shorelines throughout the spill area." (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Does oil remain on the beaches 10 years later?) Oil that sits just beneath the surface of the water (weathered oil) can still be found 10 years later and is causing damage to the eggs of the marine life trying to make a come-back in the sound, dashing the hope that the once splendid ecosystem that abounded there will ever fully return. The lives of the people who live and work in the community around the spill area continue to be disrupted 10 years later.

Oil spills are not the only reason for graduating away from oil usage, the destructive effects to the surrounding environment when an oil rig is built is yet another strong reason. When oil is extracted, whether at sea or on land, toxic chemicals used in the process, seep onto the sea bed or soil with devastating effects to the surrounding marine life and soil. It is said that where a land rig is built, not another organic thing will ever grow there again.

If thatís not enough convincing, air pollution not just from vehicles but from oil refineries is another strong reason to get away from oil usage. Oil refineries, where oil is stored and prepared for distribution, either by necessity, neglect, or human error emit toxic air pollutants from their smoke stacks, leaky valves, flares, and pipelines. These emissions are known to contribute to global warming and may cause respiratory problems in people, aggravate asthma in children, may cause cancer and death by suffocation from intense exposure.

For of those of you who are not yet convinced that individual usage alone does not contribute to the destruction of the environment as much as human neglect and lack of ownership on the part of the big industry and government regulation, below is a chart of just eight reasons (there are hundreds) to eventually eliminate oil production:

Spill Date and Region

Amount of Spillage and Cause

January 1999

Bayou Bay, Los Angeles, California

500,000 gallons dumped into bay when a boat collided with a barge/tanker

July 1999

Liberty, Mississippi

400,000 gallons released into water when storage tank seal failed

November 1999

Midland Texas

250,000 gallons poured onto land from a ruptured pipeline

July 1999

Lance Creek, Wyoming

235,000 gallons spilled onto land when pipeline valve split open

September 1999

Los Angeles, California

225,000 gallons caught on file when lightening struck storage tank

June 1999

Dallas, Texas

225,000 gallons overflowed into dyke by operator error

December 1999

San Bernadino, California

200,000 gallons released into soil, cause unknown

October 1999

Across the USA

An estimated 150,000 gallons leaked into waterways and soil all across the country

EPA report on Top Ten Oil Spills in October and 1999

Why then do we continue to use the very materials that scream environmental doom? As Chellis Glenndining says so perfectly "Like the tiny aerobic bacteria that reside within computer hardware, we are so entrenched in our technological world that we hardly know it exists." (Ecopsychology, page 42) Her theoretical perspective on technology is that we should give it all up in order to restore the health of the environment. Technology is not a simple switch to be turned off, it is our creativity embedded in the heart and soul of our inquisitive, discovering, and survivalist nature. Primitive man was labeled sentient because he constructed tools in order to survive and conquer a hostile environment that promised a daily struggle in the procurement of lifeís basic essentials such as food, water, shelter, and clothing. Today, technology is the modern term for the tools of 21st century man who is still in the pursuit of lifeís essentials with a new twist, the luxury of enjoying, not simply living life. Towards that goal, I introduce the clean energy tools that will help restore the environment and are an investment in our future generations.

Renewable Clean Energy Sources

The first part of this report was to deliver an education or a rude awakening on the environmental hazards of oil usage. The following pages focus on the new technologies but due to the volume of material available, unfortunately I must limit the discussion in this short paper to solar-based energy sources with a short compliment of other clean energy alternatives. Also of great significance are the number of organizations, corporations, and community activities that have become my heroes and are the role models for championing clean and renewable energy sources.

Every human being needs to take responsibility for the preservation and protection of our environment and not just for ourselves, but for our future generations. When we take care of the living landscape, we also ensure the growth and natural development of all the entities in our world, which is rich in natural resources and vibrantly alive. Our earthly mission should be exactly like that of the Ohio EPA "to protect human health and the environment through responsible regulation supported by sound science, quality service, and comprehensive environmental education." (Ohio EPA Mission Statement)

Solar power means exactly that, power or energy derived from the sun. Solar panels attract, store, and convert sunlight into electricity. Another type of solar device collects the heat of the sun to boil water, the steam from the boiling water powers a generator that produces electricity. Over the last decade, new models with advanced designs retain heat for days before being converted into electricity which means that "electricity can be produced on cloudy days or even several hours after sunset." (NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory).

There are too many solar power devices to list them all here so here are a few solar powered appliances for home, commercial, or industrial use: refrigerator, washing machine, laptop computer, batteries, indoor and out door lighting, heating and cooling systems for small to very large homes and buildings.

The Zion National Park Visitor Center in Utah, is almost completely powered by solar energy. More than 2 million people visit the center each year to see the cutting-edge technology of the complex. Most of the heat of the center comes from a special solar design called a trombe wall. Heat from the sun in trapped between a pane of glass and a black coating of material. A masonry wall stores the heat for release into the building when itís needed. Much of the visitors center's electricity comes from solar panels on the roof which store their electricity in batteries. This method of storage is both cost effective for the facility and of added value to the neighboring community because excess electricity stored in the batteries is sold to the local power company.

Remarkable discoveries have been made utilizing solar power over the last decade challenging the skeptics to re-evaluate their concerns. It was thought that solar power did not generate enough electricity to power large areas/buildings, or that it was too expensive, and the technology was too cumbersome and required large awkward apparatuses. As the examples above prove, those opinions can no longer be substantiated.

ind energy, a natural renewable clean energy source, was first harnessed through the invention of windmills. Today they have evolved into wind turbines whose wind-spun propeller turn a generator that converts the wind into electricity. The wind turbine can be used alone or in combination with solar panels. If my district would allow it, Iíd have a wind turbine in my backyard. The initial cost would be expensive, but it would pay for itself over the years. We expect the same results from vinyl siding our homes which is expensive but promises future savings in heating and cooling costs.

ioenergy or biomass is the turning of garbage into energy. At the end of the movie "Back to the Future" the professor returns from the future, with a vehicle that looks like a car, flies like plane, is actually a time travel machine that is fueled by organic material taken directly from a garbage can. Perhaps the idea of a flying car or even time travel is less a stretch to the imagination than anything that could be powered by garbage. Wrong. Bioenergy converts organic matter into chemicals or gaseous fuels in order to generate electricity or the biomass is converted into liquid fuels for transportation. A new king of fuel could be used from garbage to power your vehicle.

eothermal energyís source is natural geysers, for instance Old Faithful, which spews boiling water into the air with great force and pressure. The heat and steam is used to power generators that convert the energy into electricity for heating and cooling buildings. Geoenergy is limited in that there are very few sites and its users must be situated near to the geo site.

cean energy comes from tides, waves, and the warming of the ocean surface. Heat from the sun warms the surface of the ocean producing thermal energy which if captured, could potentially power large cities like New York for years (NREL on Geothermal electricity production).

The best news in all the information is that itís not science fiction. The above listed alternate sources of renewable clean energy, especially solar power, have many practical applications in households. Additionally these alternate power sources are gaining greater support and participation throughout industries and communities in the United States and around the world. People who care are taking action, we all need to follow their lead.

Communities and Organization Support the Change

There are a number of institutions exploring new energy resources with enterprising developments. Enersol, a non-profit organization, has been working in the Dominican Republic to bring solar-based electricity to rural areas of the country. From this remarkable relationship has sprung ADESOL "an organization dedicated exclusively to the promotion of renewable energy for rural quality of life improvements." (About Enerso, Accomplishments To Date, www.enersol.org). ADESOL consists strictly of Dominican Republic nationals and has progressed with Enersol who are piloting a program in the rural schools of the Dominican Republic. They are installing solar-powered computers at several rural schools and will be able to communicate with a school in Boston which is part of BASEA Association.

BASEA, the Boston Area Solar Energy Association, is an educational organization that started in the Boston, Massachusetts area in 1982. Their members consists of engineers, scientists, educators, architects, builders, and their communityís residents. BASEA communicates their goals of utilizing renewable clean energy sources through forums with guest speakers on the latest in solar power and education in the schools, as in the rural electrification of South America by Enersol and ADESOL. They sponsor organized activities for instance an annual event called the "Junior Solar Sprint" where 11 and 12 year old children and their science teachers team up to design, build, and race model solar cars.

The Ford Motor Corporation and General Motors co-funded and co-organized a FutureTruck competition. The reason for the competition was to create an SUV vehicle that looks inside and out, feels and handles the same as current models while reducing emissions and decreasing fuel consumption. The results on the part of the participants was to chose a hybrid engine system that utilizes both electric and liquid fuel components. The accomplishment increased the SUVís mileage per gallon to 325 miles per tank. These may be the SUVís of the future.

Since I feel that education matters, so I have written this paper to educate readers on disastrous effects oil production has on the environment. There was a time when we had no other choice, but today we have many choices. There are many advantages to selecting alternative clean energy for your home or business. This paper does not suggest that the transition from fossil fuel occur in a day or a decade, too much of our lives, industries, and economy depends upon its production. However humans must realize or risk self-extinction, two very significant facts: 1) we have a finite amount of oil that will eventually run out, and 2) oil as the major form of energy storage and production is destructive to our environment so permanently that it forever changing the ecosystem, the landscape and possibly the future of mankind.

AFTERWORD

Test Your Environmental IQ. Did you knowÖ.

  1. Anything poured into a gutter or storm drain flows directly into the reservoir or water supply bypassing treatment. Think about that next time your consider depositing used motor oil or antifreeze in the gutter.
  2. In Europe there are a large number of financial incentives offered by the government and other authorities to citizens and organizations to encourage the use and development of bioenery and biomass products.
  3. The ozone layer, provided we continue to outlaw the use of particular combinations of harmful chemicals like fluorocarbons, is expected to recover over the next 50 years. (The Ozone Secretariat - Common Questions)
  4. Emissions trading on the open market. A program exists whereby factories that spew harmful emissions into the air must purchase emissions credits. When the merchant reduces emissions, the remaining emissions credit balance may be sold on the market. Of course if the emissions are greater than the credit, an addition purchase must be made in order to continue operating.

Bibliography:
BASEA, Promoting Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future, www.basea.org
Ecopsychology, edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, and Allen D. Kanner; Ecopsychology and the Environmental Revolution: An Environmental Foreword, by Lester R. Brown, pages xiii ≠ xvi

Ecopsychology, edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, and Allen D. Kanner; Technology, Trauma, and the Wild, Chellis Glendinning, pages 41 - 54

Enersol,

ENERSOL SO-BASEC, International Educational Exchanges; "Environmental Education ≠ Sharing the Tools, Spreading the Message"; www.enersol.org

Environmental Protection Agency provides statistics on spills; ERNS Report ten largest oil spills reported in ERNS in October and 1999, printed in November 1999, www.epa.gov/ERNS/Headlines

EV World: 2000 FutureTruck Challenge; "FutureTruck Challenges Innovation & Determination"; www.evworld.com/reports/futuretruck

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and Restoration 10 Years Later; www.oilspill.state.ak.us/

NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) www.nrel.gov/: Clean Energy Basics: What is renewable energy?; About solar energy?; Introduction to wind energy?; About bioenergy?

MrSolar.com, Catalog/Appliances; www.mrsolar.com/kits

NYC council wants hearing on Con Ed summer power supply - Reuters Securities June 28, 2000 - 6:16 p.m.

The Disciplined Mind, Howard Gardner, Chapter 6, Designing Education for Understanding

The Spell of Sensuous, David Abram, The Ecology of Magic, pages 3 - 30