1) Peak Oil is based on the fact that oil supplies are finite and with continued use will run out eventually. The production of oil relies first upondiscovery, then extraction before finally being consumed. New discoveries add to reserves, while oil consumption depletes reserve. Oil reserves will therefore decline if discoveries fall below the rate of consumption. Growing demand in developing nations combined with dropping discovery rates indicates Peak Oil may be occurring. The effect of peak oil would be a decrease in supply of oil, this can be represented as a leftward shift in the supply curve from S1 to S2.
Assuming the demand curve does not move, this would result in an increase in the price of oil. Oil is both price and demand inelastic, therefore a shift in supply would have a significant effect on prices while doing little to lower the quantity demanded. 2) Using nuclear power as a substitute for fossil fuels faces five key challenges. Capital Challenges Nuclear power faces unique capital challenges. The initial capital required for the development of a nuclear plant is higher than those of a coal or natural gas plant. Substitution Ineffectiveness Nuclear power plants generate electricity, which makes them a suitable substitute for coal and natural gas power plants but not fuel oil, gasoline or diesel.
Thus nuclear power would not be an effective substitute for transportation fuels. It is also more expensive over the lifetime of a plant than coal or natural gas. Implementation Time Nuclear plants take longer to develop than coal or natural gas plants. This extended time frame makes it difficult to see nuclear as an effective replacement for fossil fuels. Renewable sources like wind and solar take significantly less time to implement therefore incurring lower finance costs. Waste Disposal The waste from nuclear plants must be either reprocessed or contained indefinitely.
There is often difficulty in finding a proper disposal site. While the waste is being held for disposal the plant incurs storage and security costs for an indeterminate length of time. Security Challenges While the fuel for nuclear plants is not immediately usable in nuclear weapons it is extremely dangerous and incurs security costs to properly guard it. Additionally if material was stolen and used in an attack significant costs in lives and clean-up could be incurred.
These externalities would likely be financially borne by the nation’s citizens. 3) I will look at the economic viability and development of solar photovoltaic and wind technologies focusing on the cost effective implementation of each. Solar photovoltaic technology has rapidly advanced in the last 10 years and is projected to continue to advance. Current solar technology takes between four and ten years to begin providing a positive return on investment with an approximate cost of $0.20 per kilowatt hour. By 2020 the cost is expected to fall below $0.11 per kilowatt hour for larger systems. Photovoltaic systems effectiveness depends upon the location based on the amount of sunlight a region or location receives.
The cost of production through photovoltaic means is expected to equal of traditional power sources like coal and natural gas by 2020. The lower European nations are expected to hit this point by 2015. Solar-voltaic systems have little impact on the environment after production. They can be attached to existing structures having little impact visually. Wind power is the most economically viable of the renewable sources.
In 1980 the cost of production was $0.30 per kilowatt hour. This has fallen to less than $0.05 per kilowatt hour on current turbines. The cost viability of wind is increased due to government subsidies in many countries. Wind power, unlike photovoltaic, is almost entirely dependent upon the location conditions. This can lead to problems in transmission as electricity bleeds off as it is transported across large distances. Turbines, while more cost effective, do have more environmental impact than solar photovoltaic. They can pose threats to migrating birds as well as drastically changing the aesthetic of the landscape. Photovoltaic solar is more widely implementable while wind power is much more cost effective if wind to power the turbines is available. 4) In order to sustainably and cost effectively retrofit a building the key is to reduce the amount of resources a building consumes and waste it produces.
Many sustainable renovations provide a positive return on investment over the life of the building making them both ecologically and economically intelligent. Reduction of resources begins with the resources that are used in the project.
The impact of materials used comes from production and transportation of the materials. Using recycled or salvaged materials can reduce both of these costs. Both recycled and salvaged materials provide lower cost of inputs and lower environmental impact through reuse. By using local salvaged materials transportation costs, both financial and environmental can be reduced. Salvage and recycling also reduces the waste streams from buildings that have finished their useful life. Operating expenses can be reduced by lowering or eliminating inputs. Techniques such as additional insulation can provide recurring savings while only incurring a single fixed cost.
Using more efficient lighting, such as florescent and natural light, provides energy savings and reduced maintenance costs. Using local and regional plants can reduce irrigation and maintenance costs by working with the local climate rather than fighting it. References International Energy Agency. (2010). World Energy Outlook 2010. Paris, France. Australian Academy of Science. (2010). Australia’s Renewable Energy Future. Dopita, M. & Williamson, R. (Eds. ). Canberra, ACT. Institute for Sustainable Futures. (2005). Technical Resource on Sustainable Mixed-Use Development: A Framework for Next Steps. Canberra, ACT: Australian Greenhouse Office.