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Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States

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Contents

Background and Context of Debate

The USA ("Underwear" is Stephen's favorite Article) is the second-largest polluter in the world, passed in CO2 emissions last year by China. Washington has also declined to sign on to multiple international climate change agreements, most famously the Kyoto Protocol. President Bush's absence at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development is also notable. However, America is also at the cutting edge of many environmental technologies, including those related to alternative energy.

Common energy alternatives

  • Solar power
  • Nuclear power
  • Wind energy
  • Water energy
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biofuels

Climate change: Does it need to be addressed by economic incentives?

Yes

  • Global warming presents a threat to animal species, as well as to humans. Due to the fact that ecosystem is very interconnected, global warming could prove deadly not only to some plants and animals, but in consequence to humans as well.
  • Global warming shifts weather/rain patterns. Shifting rain patterns not only harm less developed countries, but also trouble agriculture in the West. Moreover, if the food chain collapses, the catastrophe becomes inevitable.

No

  • Global warming does not exists. It is a pure myth, a hype created by human beings.
  • Ice age could be as bad as climate change. It does not really matter whether we tackle GW or not - if we decrease our emissions, we could easily move toward the ice age, which would be just as disastrous as rising sea levels.

Solar power: Is solar power a viable option?

Yes

  • Solar power is environmentally friendly. US would benefit from switching to solar power, as it is a renewable, abudant and clear energy source. [1] Solar power is abundant, clean, and renewable. And unlike oil, solar power barely produces carbon dioxide.
There are figures that suggest that alternative power costs much more per unit of electricity to produce than more conventional sources. These "cost" figures ignore a few important (yet in some cases difficult to accurately quantify or predict) cost components:
1) Total lifetime costs. Photovoltaics, once purchased and deployed, are nearly cost free; wind turbines have only minor maintenance costs. Fossil fuels, by comparison, carry high ongoing costs: fuel and plant maintenance. As we've all learned, these costs are anything but predictable or stable.
2) Political costs. The US, and many other countries, have compelling national interests in the Persian Gulf: energy. These interests draw us periodically into armed conflict in the region. There is considerable room for disagreement regarding causes of any particular Gulf Conflict, but there can be little debate that, absent the reserves of fossil fuel in the Middle East, we would not expend the same treasure or American lives as we have, and will continue to do. As a result, it is proper to allocate some of the costs of our Middle Eastern entanglements into the true cost of fossil-based energy sources. Add any reasonable percentage of the $9B/month that we are paying in Iraq, and the cost of fossil fuels carries a much smaller advantage than claimed.
3) Externality costs. The quoted cost of fossil-based power generation does not include costs that have been transferred to others. Think of the example of midwestern coal-fired plants producing pollution that creates acid rain in the northeast, reducing agricultural yields, and fish stocks, and economically damaging farmers and fishermen. One only needs to hear a few minutes of the whining of a coal plant operator, complaining that enacting federal clean air standards would render their plants uneconomic before realizing that fossil fuel operations RELY on the ability to shift significant costs onto others in order to retain their pseudo-price-advantage.
  • Solar power reduces US dependency on foreign oil, causing less money being spent overseas. In addition to that, United States' economy becomes more independent and supporting US position as a world power.


No

  • Solar power is inefficient. Not only is the technology itself costly, but also the operation costs are high and the sun does not shine all the time. Moreover, with current solar cell technology only about 8% of the energy absorbed into the solar panel is output as usable electricity. This coupled with the expense of solar technology makes it very costly to create a system that produces enough energy to be useful in everyday life.
Natural gas vs solar energy costs comparison: 0.25 and 0.07 dollars respectively.
  • America has different and better ways to solve its dependency on foreign oil. Nuclear power, wind turbines, tidal power, or even its own oil supply - to name just a few.

Biofuels: Are biofuels a viable option?

Yes

  • Biofuels are a necessity. It is a way to use our vast amounts of farmland as a energy source. It releases less CO2 emissions on a daily basis then other methods of fueling: such as fossil fuels.

No

  • Biofuels are not environmentally friendly. Biofuels have a high CO2 emission in the clearing of the land for the energy crop.
  • Biofuels negatively affect prices. Biofuels force farmers to focus on energy crops and less on crops we need in the food industry, therefore increase the prices of the remaining crops sold to consumers.

Nuclear power: Is nuclear power a viable solution to energy crisis?

Yes

  • Nuclear power has proven itself to be more than worthy to solve the United States energy needs. The US Navy has been using nuclear-power for several years now to operate their ships. It poses little if any temptation as a target for terrorist. It currently provides only 20% of the United States with power, but if increased much of the US could survive and thrive off its vast benefits. The waste still holds over 95% of its original energy which if not disposed of could be used by future more technological generations. If that can't be worked out then dumping it in the Mariana Trench is more than plausible because it would be sucked back to the core of the earth leaving no traces of waste, and being of no danger to sea creatures. Another way of solving the waste issue would be recycling, as it is already happening in France and Japan.



No

  • Nuclear energy presents a threat. Nuclear energy creates a fear in the citizenry. Above all else, people are afraid of the nuclear power plant becoming a place to develop a nuke bomb. There's also the argument that other countries try to model the US, so creating nuclear power plants in the US would cause proliferation of nuclear materials. Nuclear Terrorism is also a threat.
Example: Kansas - a power plant has outlived it's projected life by more than a decade,but yet is on line. The projected costs of dismantling this facility are now more than 300% greater than estimated when its approval for construction was given.
  • Nuclear energy is expensive. Thorium power is prohibitively expensive. For it to not be prohibitively expensive, one would need to wrap the thorium fuel rod in uranium. The reaction then creates plutonium waste, usable in nuke weapons.


Pro/con sources

Yes

No

See also

External links and resources

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