Renewable resources include types of naturally sustainable energy sources such as those derived from the sun, wind, water, geothermal and biomass. Non-renewable resources typically include those energy sources derived from hydrogen, nuclear fission, oil, coal and natural gas, which are considered naturally unsustainable and only available for consumption for a limited period of time. Both types of resources have advantages and disadvantages.
Energy from the sun has been used by plants, trees and aquatic organisms since the beginning stages of life on this planet. These days, technology developed by humans has enabled us to harness the energy of the sun in photovoltaic cells and produce electricity. Windmills and hydroelectric dams are man-made systems that generate electricity from renewable wind and water sources. Geothermal energy is harnessed from the heat produced by the Earth's core and pumped out to the surface for our use. Biomass energy is essentially nontoxic waste that can be burnt in power generators that make electricity.
Renewable Advantages and Disadvantages
The fact that these elements can be extracted, used up and not depleted is the biggest advantage to using them to create energy. In addition, minimal pollution levels are produced from energy sources like the sun, water and wind. Disadvantages to water and wind energy methods include the disruption to natural ecosystems. For example, dams are responsible for stifling fish migration patterns and riparian habitats, which benefit from natural flood zones. Biomass energy causes pollution in the form of carbon dioxide emissions as a result of its production. Geothermal energy requires unnatural and environmentally harmful means to harness the intense heat from underground.
Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the principle contributors to industrial energy production. These fuels were formed over 65 million years ago from the decaying carbon remains of animals and plants. Nuclear fission was a technology driven by the invention of the atomic bomb during the second World War. The immense and catastrophic energy produced by this process has since been developed into a power source for many nations. Hydrogen power is produced mainly from heating natural gas but can be reformed from the electrolysis of water as well.
Non-renewable Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages to non-renewable resources are in their accessibility and relatively simple methods of creating energy. Digging up coal, pumping oil and sequestering natural gas are all tasks that require relatively cheap and primitive technologies to complete. The disadvantage, however, is that by their very nature they're unsustainable and will cease to exist at some point in the future. Also, the pollution generated by fossil fuel burning has lead to a considerable rise in greenhouse gas emissions over the past century and is the impetus for grave environmental forecasts purported by scientists regarding global climate change. In addition, nuclear power creates hazardous waste that has proven to be detrimental to the environment.