Fossil fuels are created by the slow decomposition of organisms over thousands of years. They have become a cornerstone of human transportation and daily life, much to the detriment of the planet. For while fossil fuels have powered our machines, cars and jets for more than a century, they have also released massive amounts of pollution. Yet the use of fossil fuels might continue unabated were it not for the fact that they are a finite resource which is quickly becoming drained in the face of massive consumption. For that reason, humans have begun to turn to fossil fuels alternatives such as biodiesel, ethanol, and renewable energies.
Fossil fuels alternatives come in a variety of forms, and much of the technology remains in infancy. One of the most popular forms of fossil fuels alternatives is solar energy. The sun is a tremendous source of thermal energy, and by creating storage devices, the heat can be absorbed and used as energy to power homes, factories and even cities. Solar energy plants require reliable weather and a considerable amount of space to collect the energy, but are clean, sustainable and extremely powerful.
One of the fastest growing fossil fuels alternatives is wind power, which has been used in some manner for centuries. Originally, windmills were used to aid in milling and grinding grains, but today, the power of the wind is harnessed to produce clean, renewable energy. Wind plants are popular throughout the United States and are a major source of power throughout Europe. Some experts estimate that nearly 20% of Denmark's energy comes from local wind plants.
Solar and wind power may help provide homes and cities with power, but some may wonder what fossil fuels alternatives can replace traditional gas power used in cars, planes, and boats. Ethanol is a leading alternative car fuel, although its production may raise concern among environmentalists. Produced from the burning of crops such as sugar cane, ethanol can be considered somewhat renewable, as it relies on easily replanted crops. However, the production process creates a considerable amount of pollution, while the burning of the fuel by automobiles may actual cause more pollution than traditional gases.
Biodiesel may also provide a potentially widespread alternative to fossil fuels, although its future remains somewhat uncertain. Produced through the refinement of vegetable or animal oils, biodiesel is believed to emit lower amounts of greenhouse gases and pollution. Although often dismissed for requiring large amounts of crops such as soy and canola in order to produce necessary amounts, science may have recently discovered a cost and space-effective alternative to traditional methods of creating biodiesel. Algae, a fast-growing micro-organism found in bodies of water, can produce large amounts of oil and can grow anywhere, including on waste water. According to some experts, the green scum on a backyard pond may soon be powering neighborhood cars.
One of the most controversial fossil fuels alternatives is nuclear power. Although renewable and capable of generating enormous amounts of energy with relatively little pollution, many fear the potentially devastating results of nuclear leaks and plant failures. Critics question whether new technology truly makes nuclear power a safe and wise alternative to fossil fuel, yet the amount of nuclear power plants continues to grow. It seems only time will tell if the increasing use of this volatile energy source proves to be more beneficial than harmful.