This summary of Energy will review three cases, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Yucca Mountain, and The Three Gorges Dam. It will identify each type of energy source, its relative abundance and environmental impact along with evaluating the economic and ethical issues of each energy source highlighted by these three cases. The summary will identify the interests of prominent stakeholders, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each energy source according to each stakeholders point of view and present possible strategies for solving the limited-resource issues raised in these case studies with explaining the role of conservation in these strategies.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Since 1980 there has been an on and off debate regarding opening the refuge to oil drilling. The refuge is close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, one of the worlds largest pipeline systems that begins at Prudhoe Bay and continues south to Valdez. Prudhoe Bay has produced 14 billion barrels of crude oil. In the early 1990s, it was the first time in history that the United States would import more than half the oil it used. The interest of opening the refuge to oil drilling started again after it subsided for five years following the Alaskan oil spill. The Department of the Interior admitted that the oil drilling will harm the areas ecosystem and therefore both the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to allow it.
The economic and ethical issues pertaining to developing this site to oil drilling such as domestic oil could help the balance of trade and the United States would be less dependent on oil from foreign countries (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010). Conservationists believe drilling will disrupt the balance of nature for the Alaskan wilderness. Studies that were conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that support habitat damage, and decline in wolves and bears in the Prudhoe Bay area.
The Yucca Mountain in Nevada was chosen by Congress in 1987 as the only area to be considered as a permanent underground storage site for high levels of nuclear wasted from power plants. The mountain site is 90 miles Northwest of Las Vegas. Yucca Mountain can hold more than 42,000 tons of spent fuel produced in the United States and future production of spent fuel until the year 2025 (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010). Once it reaches to full capacity, another storage site will be needed. A possible environmental impact to storing spent fuel in the mountain is the mountain is near a volcano and active earthquake fault lines. Although there hasnt been an eruption in 20,000 years, the chance of an eruption is one in 10,000 during the next 10,000 years.
In 1992, 12 miles from Yucca Mountain a magnitude 5.6 earthquake developed. Scientist examined the effects of this earthquake and found the water table to have changed to 1-meter caused by the earthquake. Most experts believe this is not a serious concern. The United States Department of Energy has conducted many studies on the mountain that cost billions of dollars. Their results reflected that the site is safe from these two possible mother-nature disasters. Nevadans disagree and do not want their state as a radioactive waste site. Congress in 2002 approved Yucca Mountain as the United States nuclear waste site with no regard to the Nevadans concerns. Still today it is unclear when the site will be licensed and opened (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
The Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam (TDG), located in China, is a hydroelectric dam. The dam is the worlds largest hydropower project and has created massive floods, deaths, and displaced many people living in the river basin. The dam was designed to produce 18 gig watts of electrical power (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010). China is known to have air quality issues, and they are reliant on imported energy. This dam is an advantage for China. It will permit ships to travel far upstream and provide recreation as well as create a living for commercial fisherman. As with advantages, there also comes disadvantages such as displacement of 1.5 million people who received very little or none at all government assisted funding to help these people find new places to live. The dam also puts the Yangze river dolphin along with several other species at risk for extinction.
Possible strategies in solving these limited resource issues raised in these cases would be to invest in renewable energy sources and energy conservation for The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Yucca Mountain case would need to determine if storing the spent fuel in the mountain would be better for the environment than possibly in deep underground sites. As for the Three Gorges Dam indirect solar energy such as wave energy may be an option in the future.
Each case, The National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, The Yucca Mountain, and The Three Gorges Dam have different types of energy sources, oil, nuclear, and hydropower. They have the same issue when it comes down to the environment, humanity, wildlife, and the economy. Government agencies want to generate revenue such as domestic oil drilling in Alaska and transportation up the reservoir in China, all at the expense of all living and non-living beings. It seems to be a never-ending debate as solutions to these issues are still not solved today.
Raven, P. H., Berg, L. R., & Hassenzahl, D. M. (2010). Environment (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.