What are three major controversies in current public discourse that relate to energy, such as climate change, technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the politics of oil, and the benefits and drawbacks of wind power? Please describe/discuss.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Three major modern energy controversies are 1) the effects of fossil fuels on climate change 2) how hydraulic fracking damages the environment and 3) the rate at which the world needs to convert to clean, renewable energy.

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change:

American oil giant ExxonMobil faces allegations and a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Three major modern energy controversies are 1) the effects of fossil fuels on climate change 2) how hydraulic fracking damages the environment and 3) the rate at which the world needs to convert to clean, renewable energy.

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change:

American oil giant ExxonMobil faces allegations and a New York investigation due to evidence that the company knew from their own scientific studies in the 1970s that fossil fuel burning damages the environment, causing climate change. Most of the world's top scientists, including those at NASA, now agree that oil, gas, and coal emissions contribute to greenhouse gases that get trapped in the atmosphere. This effect not only heats up the atmosphere from excess CO2, it heats up polar cap glaciers, causing them to melt, leading to rising sea levels. Consequently, the ocean is also warming, which is destroying marine life.

Hydraulic Fracking:

Smashing rocks below the earth's surface to gain access to fossil fuels is known as hydraulic fracking, or hydrofracking. This alternative process to drilling in the ocean for oil began in the 1940s. The rocks are crushed from the force of millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals pumped underground after well bores are drilled. Sometimes, small explosives are used to create these passages for fluid injection. Deep fracking took this process further starting in 1999. The major risks involved with hydrofracking include groundwater contamination, toxic chemical pollution, infrastructure degradation, earthquakes, and health risks to workers. Both major US political parties have supported hydrofracking for economic reasons, despite grave warnings from environmental scientists.

Renewable Energy Conversion:

Many nations around the world including China, Germany, and the United States are rapidly converting to clean, renewable energy. China has been a leader in low cost solar panel development, which has helped fuel the accelerating expansion of solar energy. Green energy tax credits have also influenced both big businesses and homeowners to pursue solar roofing. The US has built several large solar power plants in the twenty-first century to provide alternative energy to utility companies. Residential solar has been on the rise as well, along with wind power.

Meanwhile, Tesla has inspired the rebirth of electric vehicles, which has influenced other automakers such as GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagon to join this revolution. According to a Stanford/UC Berkeley study, the main hurdles to overcome to pave a faster path to renewable energy domination are social and political factors, as well as persuading big companies to change their business models. Apple, Amazon, and Walmart have been major leaders in adopting solar energy. Energy storage is an issue, but battery technology is constantly improving. A major argument in favor of solar and wind, unlike fossil fuels, is that they are unlimited resources.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team