Sources of Energy and Environmental Impacts

Energy plays a critical role in fuelling the transition from a traditional to a modern society and thus aiding economic and social development of Latin-American countries. In turn, this energy is extracted from rural areas – either as fossil fuels or renewable energy – and can have significant impacts on the rural economy and environmental system. Used wisely, energy can provide environmental benefits; if misused it can also exact substantial environmental costs to the land, water, and air. The environmental costs of extracting and transporting the major energy resources used in developing countries today are coal, oil, gas, hydroelectricity, biomass, and other forms of energy. Coal has significant environmental effects throughout the fuel cycle. The environmental effects of coal mining depend on the techniques used. Mining methods are selected according to the depth of the coal, the thickness of the seams, and the availability of capital and equipment. In surface mining, topsoil and overburden are removed to expose the coal. The mining process can disturb surface lands and waters, and may also contaminate or disturb underground aquifers. The most severe impacts associated with underground mire surface subsidence over mined-out areas, disruption of aquifers, and contamination of water by acid drainage. Additionally, dust and emissions from coal mining, preparation, and transport or related equipment can contribute to local air pollution. If one is eager to know more about energy in Latin countries, he/she can use Orbitz promotion code and book tickets there. Oil and gas production have similar environmental impacts. For offshore operation support, concerns include the impacts of operations on fisheries and marine habitats, leaks and spills, and waste disposal. Large spills of oil or petroleum products, which occasionally occur during production, storage, or transportation, are perhaps the most dramatic environmental threat associated with oil production. Small leaks and spills are much more common, however, and may have a greater overall impact on the environment. Additionally, sediments can trap oil, creating a long-term source of pollution. Furthermore, petroleum refining generates hazardous liquid and solid wastes, as well as air emissions. These conservation facilities have pollution control requirements similar to many other large industrial and chemical plants, but leaks of toxic compounds occur nevertheless.

The major environmental impacts of large hydropower production projects result from the initial construction of the hydropower facilities, filling the reservoirs, and changing river flows. Large dam construction often requires the clearing of lands for access routes and sometimes for removal of construction material, with resulting soil degradation and erosion. Filling the reservoir can flood large tracts of land, uprooting people and leading to loss of forests, wildlife habitat, and species diversity. Some currently proposed very large dam projects would inundate highly populated valleys and require large-scale resettlement of local residents. It is stated, that dams disrupt the natural flow of rivers, which we can observe in the South America with its fragile ecological system. Changed flows can erode riverbeds, alter flood patterns, harm aquatic ecosystems, and interrupt the spawning and migratory patterns of fish and other species. The introduction of a new lake can affect water tables and groundwater flows and interfere with the necessary flow of nutrients, and may induce microclimatic changes in humidity, cloud cover, and rainfall.

Hydropower facilities, in turn, are vulnerable to environmental degradation; heavier than expected siltation of reservoirs from deforested and/or degraded lands upstream can reduce the lifespan of hydroelectric projects.

Although hydropower production has many effects on environment, its offers us several advantages and efficiency usage, such as relatively inexpensiveness compare to other services, pollution free environment, and potentially renewable resources, provided reservoirs can be kept from filling with sediments.

Bio-energy production can provide decentralized energy sources, helping to spur rural development in developing countries and minimize migration to urban areas.

In more recent studies, however, it has been found that the use of fuel wood is highly elastic according to its availability and the labour required to collect it or, if traded, its price. When fuel wood is difficult to obtain by foraging, people quickly resort to lower quality wood, agricultural residues, or dung. More generally, rural subsistence farmers cause relatively little damage to forests, as they usually take only deadwood or small limbs. They do not have the tools of cut down large trees. Much of the wood they collect is from hedgerows or other sources near their farms.

In contrast to rural foragers, commercialized fuel wood and charcoal operations to supply urban households, commercial facilities and industrial operations often cut whole trees and can damage or destroy forested areas. The impact of commercial demands for fuel wood are limited, however, as users will switch to fossil fuels when fuel wood becomes scarce and prices climb. The extent of the damage to the forest resulting from commercialized fuel demand will then depend on the distance between the user and the forest, the size of the forest, the size of the demand, the rate of re-growth, and other factors. The use of biomass for fuel is not usually a principal cause of deforestation. It does, however, add additional pressure on forest resources.

In arid or semi-arid regions, where forest growth is slow and there is a high population density or a concentrated urban demand for fuel wood, the use of biomass fuels can contribute significantly to local deforestation.

The burning of biomass generates large amounts of air pollution in developing countries. Food is typically cooked over an open fire or a poorly vented stove producing high levels of toxic smoke. Similarly, in colder climates, homes in rural areas are often heated by open fires, further increasing exposures to toxic smoke. One impact of this indoor air pollution is exacerbation of one of the most deadly classes of infectious illness, acute respiratory infections in children.

The use of biomass for fuel, clearing forest land for agriculture, and burning grasslands to generate fresh forage for livestock all generate large amounts of smoke that contributes to regional air pollution.

These activities also pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, potentially contributing to global climate change.

In fact, wood is not only one of many forms of biomass that can be used to produce energy. Garbage can be incinerated to produce steam heat and electricity. Manure, human wastes, and other organic refuse can be used to produce methane gas. However all these systems needs higher capital to produce for efficiency energy and thus developing countries are lacking such huge capital and are mostly concentrating for fuel wood of energy use.

Nuclear energy currently makes little contribution to the overall energy requirements of developing countries. Seven developing countries produce uranium: South Africa, Niger, Gabon, India, Argentina, Brazil, and Pakistan, Eight developing countries had operating commercial reactors as of late 1989 and several more had commercial reactors under construction. A total of 28 developing countries had research reactors.

The conventional nuclear fuel cycle includes uranium mining and processing, fuel fabrication, electricity generation, and radioactive waste disposal.

Each of these steps has the potential to release varying amounts of toxic and/or radioactive materials to the environment. Releases usually take the form of small leakages but have, on rare occasion, also resulted in. On the other hand, the nuclear power option doesn’t release little carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, nor does it emit much sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or other air pollutants. These tradeoffs pose difficult environmental choices.

Solar energy can be used to heat water or dry crops, or can be turned directly into electricity by photovoltaic cells. Winds can be harnessed for pumping water or generating electricity. Though holding great promise for the provision of decentralized forms of energy for remote areas, as yet these sources provide only small amounts of energy for developing countries.