Reflections

Fuel Up the World

The rich aroma of champorado a mother is cooking for breakfast makes a child spring to life at the crack of dawn. During midday, a boy grabs a pitcher of water from the refrigerator and gulps it to quench his thirst caused by the scorching heat of summer. As night falls, a father parks his car in the garage and turns off his car’s engine after being stuck amidst a sea of honking vehicles in a rush hour traffic jam earlier during the day.

Tomorrow, a myriad of lights will flicker and shine in the office as fluorescent ceiling lights, computer monitors and photocopiers illuminate the workplace. Similarly, while schools and universities turn on their electric fans and air conditioning units, street Internet cafés, the steamy and arid dungeons that they are, will play host to a cadre of one-eyed monsters blinking in the darkness.

Day in and day out, while the world yawns at daybreak, until it hits the sack at night, lifeless yet powerful objects have long been working over time.

Powering through the years

The primary sources of energy in the world are petroleum, coal, and natural gas, which are altogether referred to as “fossil fuels”. These are fuels formed from natural processes, such as the decomposition of organisms that had died millions of years ago and whose remains are buried deep within the earth.

The abundance of coal and iron ore in Great Britain provided the impetus for the Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid technological change in the 1700s and early 1800s. It was the advent of factories, invention of various advanced machines, and the start of mass production of goods. As the Revolution spread from Europe and North America to the rest of the globe, people’s lifestyles and livelihood were greatly affected by industrialization.

The forerunner of the Revolution was the steam engine, which was developed by Scottish inventor James Watt in 1763. The 1800s gave birth to the gasoline engine, which, in turn, made possible the invention of today’s most popular means of transportation—the automobile. Invented in the 1800s, cars would soon crowd and saunter atop roads alongside hulking trucks and buses.

Nowadays, fossil fuels continue to power machines and engines that people from all walks of life use. Coal-fired turbines generate electricity, which makes household appliances work. Fossil fuel energizes virtually all facets of industry today.

A wise man once said, change is the only permanent thing in life. However, the pace of modern technological change has been unparalleled in the 20th century.

The century started with most people living in much the same way as their ancestors had lived. Yet, radios, television sets, computers, airplanes, space travel, satellite technology and the Internet have come about within this century. And, the more technologically and industrially advanced the world gets, the higher the demand for fuel energy becomes.

Battle against entropy

In creating energy, fossil fuels are incinerated. And, since coal, petroleum, and natural gas contain high amounts of carbon, burnt fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide—a major cause of air pollution and one of the Greenhouse Gases, which contribute to global warming.

Consequently, with the increase in the world’s energy requirements comes an increase in the levels of carbon emissions. This is fast becoming problematic.

Needless to say, fossil fuel energy has long been very important and beneficial to human life. And so, the challenge to solve the dilemma is on. One solution is minimizing carbon dioxide emissions and capturing them so that they can be utilized in other domains, such as in farming, just like in the Netherlands.

Also, using high-performing fuels and lubricants in vehicles is one of the best ways of lessening the toxicity in the atmosphere. For instance, unleaded gasoline can be used instead of diesel, which contains higher amounts of the pollutant, lead. Putting additives in gasoline also decreases the toxic content in it.

There are still other alternatives. As long as it doesn’t compete with food crops, bio-fuels are a more eco-friendly source of energy. So is liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is also cheaper.

In the Philippines, the government can enforce a law to halt the importation of surplus engines that use diesel, as is the case with passenger jeepneys and buses, which are the primary sources of air pollution in the city. It may also be implemented for all vehicle models. For example, older cars may be bought by the government for scrap to encourage people to buy new models. This program is currently being implemented in Malaysia to stimulate their car industry.

It may also be beneficial to create energy conservation policies, like setting the maximum amount of energy to be used up by companies within a particular period of time, or setting the maximum number of vehicles to, say, up to two per household. The latter will not only conserve energy, but will also lessen traffic jams and air pollution.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being formed. Hence, it will also be helpful in meeting the world’s increased energy needs to use non-fossil sources as supplements to fossil fuel. These natural sources, which include hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and solar energies, are eco-friendly as well.

A challenge for all

Awareness of the environmental implications of human actions has long been lingering in the air as mere clichés. Now that manifestations of these implications are clearly seen, many are alarmed. But, it takes genuine action to alter these environmental effects. And, to be complacent in this critical time, when the future of succeeding generations is at risk with the threat of climate change, is unforgivable.

Gaining knowledge is the first necessary step to empowering people to act. Thus, the media should produce programs for proper information dissemination regarding the matter. These will inform the public about the effects of unbridled energy consumption and remind them of proper energy usage.

Even though one of the main sources of atmospheric pollutants is the combustion of fossil fuel, there are also many other causes. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, for instance, also come from the decomposition of organic matter. Non-methane hydrocarbons, which also cause air pollution, are products of solid waste disposal. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, are emitted by refrigerators and air-conditioning units, foaming agents for plastics, and propellants in spray cans.

Therefore, individuals must show discipline and exert effort to achieve proper waste disposal management, to minimize, if not stop, the use of products containing CFCs and to be responsible in using appliances.

Ultimately, it is the duty of the Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education, hand-in-hand with schools and universities, to make sure quality education is provided so that students will develop research skills and scientific reasoning to be applied in technological advancements and innovations.

Government officials, law-makers, scientists, and oil company owners have major roles in the conservation and responsible usage of energy. Yet, to be fully achieved, this noble pursuit must thrive within individual citizens, countrymen, mass society and the youth sector. For the fight in saving the Earth is not just an endeavor of a handful of people, but a battle of humanity.

It is not too late to change the course of nature. The challenge keeps on so as research and development of technological breakthroughs—for there is a fervent duty and a driving force to fuel up the world.~

Photos: Google Images

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