The Disadvantages of Electric Energy
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Electric energy is cheap to produce. In 2007, the combined electrical output of all of the power plants across the world was around 18,000 terawatt-hours of energy; 1 terawatt-hour is equivalent to 1 billion kilowatt-hours. (See Reference 2, pg. 1, introduction.
) However, there are numerous disadvantages to the use of electric energy, some of them fatal, that requires a certain amount of precaution and foresight to continue using this power responsibly.
Every year, about 1,000 United States citizens die due to electrocution and electric shock. (See Reference 1, p. 2.) Exposure to electrical charges that are in excess of 500 volts can cause serious injury, such as burning that can lead to scars. Anyone receiving a low-voltage electric shock should still seek medical attention if they experience numbness, periods of unconsciousness, sensory problems or tingling in the extremities; pregnant mothers should always seek medical attention if they've experienced a shock. (See Reference 1, p. 4.)
Covering open electrical sockets and checking the condition of electrical equipment, replacing anything if necessary, helps prevent electric shocks from occurring in your home. (See Reference 6.)
To create the energy that we use, fossil fuel electricity generation creates more than 10 gigatons, or 10 billion tons, of carbon dioxide annually, which is then dispersed into the environment. (See Reference 2, p. 1, introduction.) Coal power plants, without any filtration systems, can release huge amounts of carbon into the air. Fossil fuel combustion can also create large amounts of ash that can lead to respiratory problems, or may even contain poisonous metals such as lead or arsenic. (See Reference 3, p. 78, section titled "Ashes.")
According to information gathered by the Canadian non-governmental organisation (NGO) The Global Education Project, discoveries of crude oil have been dropping worldwide since 1970 and will continue to do so, even as consumption will continue to rise. (See Reference 4, sections titled "How Much Oil is the World Going to Want?" and "How Much Oil is There?") Although renewable sources of electric energy, such as wind farms or hydroelectric power plants, are on the rise, humans are still greatly dependent on fossil fuels for the generation of electricity. Coal power plants may be very cheap, but current reserves may only last for 50 years; at current usage rates, we will have supplies of coal for only 300 years at the longest. (See Reference 5.)
- eMedicineHealth: Electric Shock
- Nature.com: Electricity Without Carbon
- GoogleBooks: "Electric Energy: An Introduction," Mohamed A. El-Sharkawi (2005)
- The Global Education Project: World Energy Supply
- Sun-trek.org: Non-Renewable Energy Sources
- Tennessee Valley Authority: The Danger of Electrical Shock
- Jorg Greuel/Photodisc/Getty Images