Energy and Environmental Policy Issues in US
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A research paper presents energy and environmental policy issues that affect the United States and should be addressed by the office of the Congress. It tackles the problems associated with energy, politics of pollution, and how these issues are addressed through the American Public Policy. The paper then identifies five main policy issues that directly affect his constituents and give five recommendations for handling them.
Keywords: Energy and environment policy, energy crisis.
The construct ‘environment’ is used in reference to the general surrounding within which a living organism is situated. It includes living and non-living things, natural and built phenomenon that influences the conditions around an organism. Energy, in this context, refers to any form of power that is extracted from physical or chemical resources and is useful in running and sustaining any activity. Energy exists in distinct forms such as heat, kinetic, light, electrical or mechanical and, in some cases, can be transformed into another form. The paper considers the strategies that should be put in place to address energy and environmental problems facing the citizens of the United States.
Energy Options in America and Problems Associated with Them
Energy sources refer to natural resources that are used as fuels in machinery to generate power. Main consumers of energy in America include heavy industrial machines, automobiles, and domestic users (Klyza & Sousa, 2006). These sources of energy are either renewable or non-renewable. Non-renewable sources of energy are all forms of energy that are extracted from the earth, such as fossil fuels and nuclear materials, and can be depleted. Renewable energy refers to those that are regenerated as first, as they are used and their availability is consistent and continual. Such sources include wind, solar, water, geothermal, and bio-fuel products.
Oil is a non-renewable fuel that is formed when pre-historic animal and plant fossils are compressed by heat and pressure under the sea-bed for several years. It is then mined from the underground wells in the crude form before it is refined into consumable forms such as diesel, kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, and lubricants. Oil forms 40% of the total United States energy and covers up to 99% of the energy used in the transportation sector. Despite such a wide range of oil consumption, America heavily relies on imports from Saudi, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria (Levi, 2012).
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The United States consumes approximately 19.2 million barrels per day, making it the largest oil consumer in the world. However, oil consumption poses a number of challenges to the U.S society (Levi, 2012). These include environmental degradation caused by oil spills and extractions, combustion of oil wastes that cause human respiratory problems, and emulsion of greenhouse gasses. Consequently, it has been observed that the natural barrels of oil are being overused and depleted with time. Although there is a need to reduce oil consumption, such attempts often get frustrated as it remains the main source of transport energy.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is non-renewable and is dug together with crude oil from the same well or distilled from crude oil. Natural gas is mainly used in America for heating and the generation of electricity. It is preferred for domestic purposes in homes and businesses, as it is cleaner than coal and oil. There are also several attempts to use it as a replacement for gasoline in the transport industry. Natural gas counts for approximately 22% of U.S heat and electricity energy and is also used in the production of fertilizers, paints, and plastics (Levi, 2012).
Coal is non-renewable fossil energy that is formed when pre-historic forest remains are subjected to pressure and heat under the earth’s surface. It is extracted from the earth through deep or strip mining and exists in various grades (Levi, 2012). Coal is utilized to produce electricity and industrial fuels for machines that require a large amount of heat. In the United States, it has been crucial in steel, paper, and cement industries, as well as cooking in homes and business premises. America is one of the main suppliers of coal and is currently accredited for owning a quarter of all earth’s coal reserves.
Coal is associated with a number of challenges that face America and other world consumers. For instance, the combustion of coal causes air pollution by the emulsion of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. This further causes acidic rain, which makes rainwater unsafe for domestic and agricultural purposes (Levi, 2012). Besides this, the mining process leads to the destruction of vegetation and topsoil layers. The wastes from coal mines also cause pollution to rivers, streams, and lakes. Combustions from coal are responsible for at least 36% of greenhouse gases in the United States.
Although there has been a need to promote what is commonly known as “clean coal” technology, which limits environmental damages, very little prospects have been realized. For instance, carbon capture and storage technology, which intends to separate carbon from coal and inject it underground, has not yet been approved as a safe and ideal method of reducing greenhouse gas emulsions (Levi, 2012).
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Nuclear energy is generated when uranium atoms are split and cause a chain of reactions that produce heat. It is this heat that processors use to change the state of water into steam, which, in turn, generates electricity through turning of turbines. During this process, the water that drives the turbines is cycled within an enclosed circuit hence preventing any emulsions of radiation-contaminated exhausts into the atmosphere (Levi, 2012).
The need to protect the environment, reduce pollution, and minimize greenhouse gas emulsions has called for attempts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase the utilization of renewable energy. Although such energy sources as water, wind, geothermal, and biomass have been perceived as more convenient alternatives, each of these is associated with a number of weaknesses. For instance, the wind has been used to generate electricity for individual buildings yet it is only applicable in selected areas such as Midwest, Texas, and the states along great lakes and Atlantic shores (Klyza & Sousa, 2006).
Geothermal energy has also been recognized as an energy source that can be effective in all regions. This source is limited in the sense that power sources require more active geothermal sources that are only located in the West of the United States. Consequently, large solar power plants have been effectively used, but are only successful in the Southwest. Solar power is also limited to bright sun rays hence are challenged at night or in chilly climatic conditions (Klyza & Sousa, 2006).
To address energy-related issues in the United States, the federal government has spearheaded the formation of various policies that govern the use of energy. This has been achieved through various legislations. For instance, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 encourages funding for bio-fuel and bio-based research developments. In addition to this, the Energy Act of 2005 allows an increase of renewable gasoline fuels sold to the U.S. whereas the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act enhanced environmental sustainability in the light of climatic changes (Guy, 2012).
In general, American energy policies whether developed by federal or state governments are aimed at certain significant objectives. These are geared towards improving efficiency and reducing oil imports. The policies also aim at creating jobs for the natives, reducing energy costs hence saving the consumer money and reducing air pollution. All these policies are monitored through the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (Guy, 2012).
The U.S. environmental policy is a federal action plan that is meant to regulate activities that have negative impacts on the environment. This is justified by the fact that as much as the economy relies heavily on environmental features, uncontrolled exploitation may lead to serious damages, pollution, and depletion. The policies thus encourage the positive utilization of the environment in a manner that protects it from damage and preserves it for future generations. The policy strategies that are used to attain these conservation objectives include legislations, design standard strategies, performance standard strategies, market and industrial reforms, sanction regulations, rewards, and punishments. These procedures are overseen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which conducts environmental assessment, education, research, and enforcement of national standards alongside the states' differences (Guy, 2012).
Pollution is the most serious environmental-related problem facing the United States. The politics of pollution also reveal that curbing this phenomenon seems challenging by the fact that it automatically results from the increasing industries. Various forms of pollution will always persist with an increase of industrialization, which is the American main economic dream (Portney & Stavins, 2000).
It has also been noted that black, poor, and low-income earners are the most vulnerable groups to pollution risks in America. The settlement trends in most of the American cities place the wealthy in secluded high-class estates. Such estates were accorded special treatments and exposed to very little dangers of air, water, and sound pollutions. Consequently, poor industrial workers occupy neighborhoods of the industries hence directly exposed to all forms of pollution from industrial wastes. This becomes a hazardous trap to their lives since they rely on the same industries as a source of employment for their daily upkeep. Most of them are also exposed to poor working conditions, which render them susceptible to various health challenges. Even with the formation of the environmental movement, the low-class is still underrepresented since the movement was traditionally dominated by the white middle and upper-middle-class persons (Portney & Stavins, 2000).
Pollution of the air is one of the pressing concerns in environmental management that is yet to be effectively addressed in America. In reaction to this, the government has enacted several Clean Air Acts, which intend to limit air pollutants and promote responsible disposal and recycling of industrial wastes. Much of these initiatives were achieved during President Bush administration. For instance, he spearheaded regional market regulations and reviewed plant permits to enhance air safety (Levi, 2012).
Water pollution is another environmental problem that the U.S. government has attempted to address in various ways. Water pollution is caused by industrial wastes that are often discharged into rivers and lakes and alter the chemical, physical and biological features of water. This further affects people’s lives by exposing them to water-related infections, high costs of water treatment, and purification. Although the Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted to regulate and limit the wastes that are disposed of in water, water pollution still exposes U.S. citizens to numerous environmental and health hazards, which have not been effectively handled (Guy, 2012).
The U.S. government also has special policy regulations regarding the disposal of toxic wastes. Toxic wastes in this sense refer to all poisonous byproducts from manufacturing, construction, automotive, laboratories, hospitals, and domestic utilities. Based on their presumed danger to human, plant, and aquatic life, the Environmental Protection Agency regulations indicate that toxic wastes should be disposed of in designated sites that are located throughout the United States. For domestically generated toxics, every town has special days of collection of such wastes (Guy, 2012).
An environmental impact statement is one of the policy issues that the U.S. government uses to protect its environment. As part of the laws of the environment, it is required that any institution that engages in the environmental-related activity must conduct an assessment on how their activities will impact the environment, existing options, and how they intend to curb or minimize pollution and other environmental hazards. To the companies, this provides a guide on how to settle for less environmentally damaging options while to the government, it enhances prior information on dangers that various activities are likely to cause on the environment (Levi, 2012).
Every environmental control law has to take into account several determinants such as engineering factors, cost, location, and sustainability. In America, such control measures are always meant to utilize available technology, but with prospects of improving to more sophisticated technology. Different control measures are also implemented by both federal and local levels of government. The ultimate goal of all control measures is to enhance the reduction of pollutants and toxic wastes. Implementation of control measures involves at least four different stages. These include the determination of the environmental issues, identifying control measures, incorporating the control measures into the public plan, and finally, involving the general public (Guy, 2012).
Although these control measures cannot be underrated, they are not very effective in solving an already spilling problem. It is, therefore, significant to observe that alternative energies that have a lesser negative impact on the environment remain an ideal way of conserving the environment and prevent pollution (Levi, 2012).
Five Main Environmental Issues that Affect the Congress’ Constituents
There are five environmental issues that shall remain the priority of the office of the congress. This includes global warming that has remained the main environmental crisis that affects America and the rest of the world. The creation of clean energy for the present and the future shall also be addressed. This is with the view that the current pollution problems are widely associated with the use of fossil fuels. Protection of health by preventing pollution shall also be pursued. This shall be realized through the reduction of dangerous chemical products in foods that circulate in the market. Another policy issue includes the sufficiency and safety of the water. This is associated with changing climatic patterns that drain rivers and threatens the quality of water. Lastly, the policy shall enhance energy and environmental sustainability that impacts the economy and well-being of citizens and their environment.
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To address these energy and environmental issues, the office of the congress intends to take five main specific actions. Congress intends to promote companies that manufacture non-petrol consuming vehicles and expansion of the railroad as a means to reduce pollution caused by petrol vehicles and also ease the traffics. Energy and environmental education programs and innovations shall also be supported so as to improve current alternative forms of energy. Besides these, the office shall conduct community awareness campaigns on how to practically promote clean air and clean water measures at domestic levels. Congress shall also avail cheaper alternative forms of energy to the middle and low-class people at a moderate cost that majority can afford. Finally, water sources shall be boosted by planting vegetation along the river reserves to maintain and improve the water volumes.
Energy and environmental issues form the most significant policy issues in the United States. These are meant to address issues such as pollution, depletion of natural energy sources global warming, and other environmental related issues. Besides the specific environmental and energy policies, the office of the congress intends to implement specific plans that will address contextual problems that affect the constituents.