The Instigator
samille3
Pro (for)
Winning
35 Points
The Contender
Eris
Con (against)
Losing
19 Points

The United States should change towards the use of alternative fuel and away from fossil fuels.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/3/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,622 times Debate No: 9923
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (8)

 

samille3

Pro

Here I will argue for the presumption that the United States should change towards the use of alternative fuel and away from fossil fuels.

I define the United States to mean the public as a whole and not just the government. Alternative fuels are fuels that are other substances other than the conventional fossil fuels that can be made and used as fuels; renewable energy source. Fossil fuels can be defined as a non-renewable energy source that is formed by the decomposition of organic matter under a layer of sand and silt which produce the heat and pressure that change its chemical structure over a time period of millions of years. From these definitions, the primary inference is that the American people and government should use renewable energy sources more and non-renewable energy sources less.

The presumption is that the United States uses fossil fuels more than alternative fuels such as fuels made from yellow grease, a used frying oil from deep fryers. The formation of fossil fuels was done within a process of millions of years as the plant and animal organic material was covered by layers of sand and silt and forced to decompose under such pressure and heat. Today we are using such natural resources faster than it can be reproduced.

The real debate will start in round 2, once there is an understanding as to whether the opponent agrees or disagrees with the above definitions and presumption.
Eris

Con

I thank my opponent for starting this debate and will begin by addressing their definitions:

1) "I define the United States to mean the public as a whole and not just the government."

This is rather ambiguous. Are you arguing on moral grounds (i.e. the public as a whole) that we should change, or upon policy grounds (i.e. the government)?

2) "Alternative fuels are fuels that are other substances other than the conventional fossil fuels that can be made and used as fuels; renewable energy source. Fossil fuels can be defined as a non-renewable energy source that is formed by the decomposition of organic matter under a layer of sand and silt which produce the heat and pressure that change its chemical structure over a time period of millions of years."

I agree with these definitions more or less, except for the part about it taking millions of years to produce coal (1). Furthermore according to your own definition, artificial coal could be considered an alternative fuel when compared with natural coal (1).

"From these definitions, the primary inference is that the American people and government should use renewable energy sources more and non-renewable energy sources less."

This is less an inference and more your opinion, which I believe belongs in Round 2.

---------------------------------------------------------------

I look forward to your attempt at proving the United States "should" progress away from the use of fossil fuels, though from your Round 1 arguments it would appear that you have your work cut out for you in terms of providing the necessary evidence.

(1) - http://www.sciencedirect.com...
Debate Round No. 1
samille3

Pro

I agree that my definition of the United States was a little too ambiguous. You are right that I am arguing on both moral and government policy grounds. As for the definition of fossil fuels, artificial coal would be considered an alternate fuel if the definition of artificial coal is coal created by rapidly applying vibrating pressures to wood (Karweil) and/or rapid application of intense heat (Hill). In Illinois, USA artificial coals are created by heating the lignin to about 150˚C in the presence of montmorillonite or illite clays (catalysts). <http://www.answersingenesis.org...;.
With this debate, I would like to prove that we should move away from fossil fuels and move toward renewable energy sources such as biodiesel because:
(1)Fossil Fuels such as oil has a finite amount in this world and is not being naturally formed as fast as we are using it. Based off of the Hubbert Peak Theory, once we have reached the point of maximum production, we will experience an exponential decline. As of 2004, the total world reserves were estimated to be 1.25 trillion barrels with a daily consumption of about 85 million barrels. With this we can make an estimation of when to experience the oil depletion, which it to be around the year 2057.
< http://en.wikipedia.org... >. <http://en.wikipedia.org... >.

(2) Oil, coal and natural gas make up of more than 85% of the energy consumed in the United States. Using oil as an example the US in 2004 imported 61% of consumption (13.12 million barrels per day). By 2005, the US imported 67% of consumption (16.54 million barrels per day). We are too dependent on other nations for our energy sources, which could hurt us in the future. An example would be the 1973 oil crisis, when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo because the United States resupplied the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War. October 16, 1973, OPEC raised the price of oil by 70%. October 19, 1973, President Nixon didn't back down and appropriated $2.2 billion in emergency aid to Israel, which created a negative effect by other Arab states and joined the embargo on October 20, 1973. Since there was a low supply of oil in countries under the embargo, oil had to be increased in price to decrease the demand. Market price for oil rose from $3 to $12. The Middle East has control of a vital commodity, which became known as the "oil weapon". The United States needs to not allow room for such vulnerability, by depending less on imported fossil fuels.
< http://www.quoteoil.com... >.
<http://en.wikipedia.org... >.

(3)From an environmentalist's perspective, the obtaining, refining, and usage of fossil fuels are harmful to the environment. In the extraction of oil in cases of offshore exploration, sea beds have been disturbed, which have killed the sea plants that many of the marine creatures need to survive due to the dredging process. In the extraction of coal, there are two methods; opencast mining and Underground mines. The Opencast mining tends to disfigure the country side and produces a large amount of atmosphere pollution due to the surface activity. If the Opencast mining is refilled after the mining project, the soil is usually a mixture of layers which mean that harder elements are exposed on the surface leaving the land almost barren. With Underground mines, roof collapsing of the mines can be felt on the surface level leaving buildings and roadways susceptible to cracks and sometimes disappearing into a hole. Oil spills have been known to damage natural ecosystems. It is much more damaging at sea since it can spread for hundreds of nautical miles killing sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms that it coats. The combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to more than 90% of the United States greenhouse gas emissions. It produces air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. Such air pollutants can contribute to smog, acid rain, climate change, which can affect habitats and wildlife. Fossil Fuels also contain radioactive material (uranium and thorium), which are released into the atmosphere. The burning of coal in 1982 released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident.
< http://www.planete-energies.com... >. <http://en.wikipedia.org... >.
<http://en.wikipedia.org... >.

I hope I have provided enough information to prove why I believe that the United States should change towards the use of alternative fuel and away from fossil fuels. I look forward to seeing the response from my opponent, and would like to thank him for debating with me.
Eris

Con

I will adopt my opponents format and address his points with the appropriate numerals:

1) "As of 2004, the total world reserves were estimated to be 1.25 trillion barrels with a daily consumption of about 85 million barrels. With this we can make an estimation of when to experience the oil depletion, which it to be around the year 2057."

I agree with my opponents assertion that fossil fuels are indeed finite in supply. Where I disagree with him however is in the amount he estimates the world to currently hold within its depths. Take for instance the recent discovery of the largest ever oil field found in the Gulf of Mexico by BP - a well containing 4 to 6 billion barrels of oil and natural gas (1). Indeed not only have huge oil deposits recently been discovered, there have also been vast numbers uncovered - 200 fields this year alone (1). With these recent discoveries, it would now appear that our estimations of world oil supplies are in need of serious revisions. For truly it seems scientifically dishonest to state that the world will run out of oil in 2057 when we have no idea how much oil the world actually holds. Therefore this point of contention you hold - that the supply of oil will run out sometime in the near future - is misleading in its assertions and rather invalid for the purposes of this debate.

2) "We are too dependent on other nations for our energy sources, which could hurt us in the future."

As noted earlier, the oil reserves in the United States more than adequately meet our own consumption requirements - roughly 21 billion barrels (2). We also must keep in mind that this figure is from 2007 - discounting the monumental recent findings addressed in 1 - and that it also discounts "unproven" oil reserves such as shale deposits and deep ocean wells. Therefore, your point that the U.S. doesn't have enough oil and has to import it is rather a moot point - we have the oil necessary to meet our own demand, we have simply chosen not to use it.

3) "From an environmentalist's perspective, the obtaining, refining, and usage of fossil fuels are harmful to the environment."

I find it curious that some environmentalists - for I consider myself an "environmentalist" too - always point to the "unhealthy" nature of drilling for oil, when in reality the damage it does pales in comparison to the damage done by "alternative" methods of energy production.

Take for instance solar panels. If we were to produce these on a commercial scale we would need to mine extensively for silicon and phosphorus. One could easily argue that the environmental damage done by mining for these minerals greatly outweighs both the damage done by gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels and the established mining for ores necessary for coal production.

Another common alternative energy source offered is hydrothermal dams. However the environmental impact of building a dam is inarguably worse than burning fossil fuels (3). Indeed the building of dams is the single greatest contributor of methane to the atmosphere, which traps heat 25x more effectively than CO2 - making dams less environmentally efficient than the burning of fossil fuels (3). Furthermore recent advances in fossil fuel technology have reduced that amount of C02 produced by modern coal plants by 40% (4). Therefore coal - despite all the connotations and taboos associated with it - is actually not a very "dirty" energy production method, negating your point.

"Oil spills have been known to damage natural ecosystems. It is much more damaging at sea since it can spread for hundreds of nautical miles killing sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms that it coats."

This is problem with the shipping of oil, not its production. The problems of transporting oil have little to do with whether or not the United States should continue to use. Indeed, the prospects of transporting alternative energy sources - say nuclear waste - are much more environmentally dangerous than shipping oil.

"Fossil Fuels also contain radioactive material (uranium and thorium), which are released into the atmosphere. The burning of coal in 1982 released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident."

This is the full quote from your source, since you decided not to show it:

"Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident. However, this radioactivity from coal burning is minuscule at each source and has not shown to have any adverse effect on human physiology."

Plagiarizing Wikipedia and deliberately editing quotes is not acceptable in a debate. Furthermore, your own sources are contradicting your arguments which is usually not a strategy employed by people interested in being taken seriously.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'd also like to take some space to offer forth a point my opponent neglected to address: cost. The average cost of alternative energies is much higher when compared with fossil fuels - in the case of wind its close to a 50% increase in cost per kilowatt per hour (5). This is due mainly to the fact that alternative energies are as of now unproven, contain inefficiencies of design, and have no infrastructure which can harness the energy they create. Furthermore I'd like to state that I fully support developing alternative energy sources, but I am steadfastly against the sort of panic-driven hysteria that my opponent has offered as a reason to adopt alternative energy sources in their entirety. Because the truth is the sources we have now are rather infeasible and forcibly adopting them would do much more harm than good - the technology simply isn't ready.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusion:

My opponent offered relatively weak reasons for why the United States should change energy production sources. Furthermore I offered evidence that forcing an artificial movement towards alternative energy sources would be economically disastrous and infeasible as the technology is not ready for commercialization.

(1) - http://www.nytimes.com...
(2) - http://en.wikipedia.org...
(3) - http://e360.yale.edu...
(4) - http://www.worldcoal.org...
(5) - http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 2
samille3

Pro

1) First we debated about the finite supply of fossil fuels. You argued that there were recent discoveries of new oil fields. One example being the Gulf of Mexico which contains from 4-6 bil. barrels of oil and natural gas. You continue to argue that due to such discoveries the estimation of world oil supplies need to be revised leading to the inability to make statistical hypothesis of when we expect the world to "run out of oil". I did not argue that the world would run out of oil at the year 2057. I argued that there would be an oil depletion at the year 2057 based off of the Hubbert Peak Theory. Imagine a bell curved graph of year (x-axis) vs production (y-axis), to the right side of the peak there will be an exponential decline in production. It is true that we have no true idea of how much crude oil the world holds, but it is very important to at least attempt a statistical estimation of known oil reserves to compare with daily consumption. I can use this statistic with daily production specifically for one reserve vs its estimated oil supply to calculate how longevity of oil site, which could reflect on the company's decisions for on funding for the discovery of new oil sites. One of your sources mentioned that "since the early 1980s, discoveries have failed to keep up with the global rate of oil consumption, which last year [2008] reached 31 billion barrels of oil. Instead, companies have managed to expand production by finding new ways of getting more oil out of existing fields, or producing oil through unconventional sources" Recently we have made a large number of discoveries but we will at one point reach our production peak (Hubbert) in which we will no longer be able to produce as much as demanded.
2) The second reasoning stated that we are too dependent on other nations for our energy sources, which could hurt us in the end. I used the example of the 1973 oil crisis. You noted that "we [currently] have the oil to necessary to meet our own demands" and that we just choose not to use it. With enough oil reserves to meet our demands, we would still be dependent on other nations through the refining process. The US does not refine enough crude oil to meet our daily needs and therefore we send it mainly to Canada to be refined and imported back to us. It is cheaper to send to Canada then to ship it 1500 miles to the next US refinery.
As for the claim that we have enough oil reserves to meet our own demands, we do we not currently use them? Are we talking about emergency reserves and reserves found on land that we currently are not allowed to drill? If we are once again cut off from a source of fuel like we were in the 1973 oil crisis, the preparation and drilling of these reserves would take a lot of time and money. Assuming the reserves were not set up for the commercial pumping of oil. As time goes by, the demand would increase and would witness the affects of a lower oil supply on the economy.
3) Within this third reasoning, I stated that the obtaining, refining, and usage of fossil fuels are harmful to the environment. The opponent states that alternative method does more damage to the environment.
One example was the solar panels and that "we would need to mine extensively for silicon and phosphorus". There is a problem with this statement because silicon is not mined, but manufactured from silica, wood, charcoal, and coal. Silica on the other hand one of the most abundant mineral found on the Earth's crust. It is commonly found as sand or quartz. Coal on the other hand is mined, but is a fossil fuel. We earlier defined; "Alternative fuels are fuels that are other substances other than the conventional fossil fuels". Coal which is an ingredient of silicone used to make solar panels is a conventional fossil fuel and therefore this example does not apply. Solar panels contribute to the mining of coal.
Your second example was hydrothermal dams. The source you received this information on was mainly talking about China and how they are irrationally, planned poorly and in need of more safeguards for affected people. Their goal for building so many dams is not to combat climate change or the fostering of development, but as a bargaining tool to have access to natural resources such as metals, fossil fuels, and farmland in exchange (Scudder). "Building of the dams is the single greatest contributor of methane to the atmosphere, which traps heat 25x more effectively than CO2". The direct quote from your source is "Dam building creates other significant impacts as well. Drowned trees and vegetation burp methane — which traps heat at 25-times the rate of CO2 — out of the reservoirs, particularly in tropical regions like Brazil. In fact, scientists at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research calculate that the world's large dams are responsible for producing 104 million metric tons of methane a year — making dams the single largest source of human-caused methane." Failing to mention that the methane was due to drowned trees and vegetation. Though it is impossible to remove all vegetation within the dam's path, this methane by product can be decreased by better planning of the water flow path and clearing of flood areas. Also this describes "particularly in topical regions like Brazil". This debate specifically argues for the United States which is a different type of region. Before a hydroelectric dam can be constructed a study of the area is required to be studied and have federal and state licenses. These studies include site studies, hydrological studies and environmental impact assessment with required hydrological data of up to at least 50 years. Though there are some disadvantages there are also some advantages of hydroelectricity such as that it produces no waste, has a considerably lower output level of CO2 and eliminates the cost of fuel. The cost of operation is almost unaffected by the increase cost of fossil fuels, require no imports and usually have a low labor cost. Hydroelectric plants also have longer life spans than fuel-fired generation, currently have some built 100 years ago and still in service.
4) Last of all was cost. "The average cost of alternative energies is much higher when compared with fossil fuels", this is a fallacy of division. What is true of the whole is not true of its parts. For example, bio diesel is a cheap alternative fuel and we have efficient technology to use it. Diesel powered cars tend to have a better fuel economy by 20-40% and produce less greenhouse gases. Bio diesel-powered diesel engines offer substantially improved emission reductions compared to petro-diesel or gasoline. Bio diesel average $0.28 per gallon with the assumption that the used oil was free. This figure was calculated using today's chemical prices and a bio diesel experiment provided by NC State University.
Conclusion my opponent states that I offer evidence that is forcing an artificial movement towards alternative energy sources. United States was defined as "both moral and government policy grounds" with no further opposition. I argued for both grounds, meaning that there should be a behavioral change from the public and government policy change. Would it still be considered forcing if the public wants it? The presumption states "that the United States should change towards the use of alternative fuel and away from fossil fuels". This does not mean that we should create sides and drastically change from the fossil fuel side to the alternative side. The key word "toward" could also mean a shift in a particular direction over time. If I was to find definitions they would be with a view to obtaining or having, In the area or vicinity of. Yes, we do have a form of time limit due to our finite supply of fossil fuels, but we do have the ability to use our time now to make efficient ways to use alternative fuels so that when we do need to change we can do so without disaster.
Eris

Con

1) "I did not argue that the world would run out of oil at the year 2057. I argued that there would be an oil depletion at the year 2057 based off of the Hubbert Peak Theory."

I understand the point you think you're making here, but my original contention still holds and you did not refute it simply by restating your argument from Round 2: we have no idea the magnitude of the "Hubbert Peak", nor can we even estimate when we might reach that peak with any degree of accuracy, which you yourself note here by writing: " It is true that we have no true idea of how much crude oil the world holds". Therefore it would seem to most people that you have conceded this particular argument based on your own admission that you actually have no idea the magnitude of our oil reserves and can no more make an accurate prediction of when we might run out of oil than a homeless man on a street corner - because you both are simply guessing. Another interesting tidbit for you, Hubbert using his model in 1974 predicted that the world would run out of oil by 1995, which I think both you and I can agree was wildly inaccurate, much like the predictions you are making now (1). Indeed, this entire argument assumes we actually reach the Hubbert Peak, as both you and Hubbert himself have neglected to mention artificial ways of producing oil (liquid hydrocarbons) from kerogen rich oil shale (2). Either way, your point has been refuted regardless of whether or not you have chosen to acknowledge it.

2) "With enough oil reserves to meet our demands, we would still be dependent on other nations through the refining process."

False. We have upgraded existing refineries' capacities by up to 300,000 barrels per year - the equivalent of adding one new, modern refinery per year (3). Naturally assuming this trend is accelerated by increases in supply, your point is fallacious and misleading. Furthermore, you did not refute my original contention. Therefore, you have conceded this point.

3) "If we are once again cut off from a source of fuel like we were in the 1973 oil crisis, the preparation and drilling of these reserves would take a lot of time and money. Assuming the reserves were not set up for the commercial pumping of oil."

We are not assuming anything. I am arguing that we have enough oil within the regions of the United States to meet our current and future demands. I have provided more than enough evidence to support this. You have acknowledged the validity of my statement by instead changing your argument to state that it would "take too long" to get the oil. Most would consider this improper conduct in a debate as you are changing the frame of your argument in the last round - you need remember that we are simply arguing quantities of oil. Therefore, you have conceded this point by nature of changing the frame of your argument to an irrelevant position.

4) "One example was the solar panels and that "we would need to mine extensively for silicon and phosphorus". There is a problem with this statement because silicon is not mined, but manufactured from silica, wood, charcoal, and coal. Silica on the other hand one of the most abundant mineral found on the Earth's crust. It is commonly found as sand or quartz. Coal on the other hand is mined, but is a fossil fuel. We earlier defined; "Alternative fuels are fuels that are other substances other than the conventional fossil fuels". Coal which is an ingredient of silicone used to make solar panels is a conventional fossil fuel and therefore this example does not apply."

Your argument for the environmental positives of solar panels is that we can mine silica (indeed it must be mined as it is most often found in ores, not in "sand"), cut down forests (wood too must be harvested commercially), and obtain silica from coal with little to no damage to environment relative to burning fossil fuels. This is an absolutely absurd argument to make. You also completely ignored that point that we still would need to mine for phosphorus, which is one of the most volatile minerals found on Earth in terms of potential for environmental damage.

5) "Though it is impossible to remove all vegetation within the dam's path, this methane by product can be decreased by better planning of the water flow path and clearing of flood areas."

You completely missed the point here. "Clearing" flood areas still removes vast areas of vegetation, which then decays, which then releases Methane - the most potent greenhouse gas man is capable of emitting on a large scale. Therefore my original point still stands, alternative fuels are no more environmentally conscientious than fossil fuels - they're simply portrayed that way because it's commercially beneficial for corporations to convince you that progress has been made.

6) "Diesel powered cars tend to have a better fuel economy by 20-40% and produce less greenhouse gases."

Of the most fuel efficient cars in the world, the top 6 rely on gasoline (read fossil fuels). Diesel comes in at number 7 (4). Indeed, of the Top 10 most fuel efficient cars in the world, only 2 are diesel. I would say you need to work on your facts.

7) "Bio diesel average $0.28 per gallon with the assumption that the used oil was free."

Not only do biofuels emit much more greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels (5), they also cost significantly more than any fuel made from crude oil (6). It would seem your either willfully citing made up "facts" that you have no sources for, or your simply ignorant of the true cost behind much of what you seem to be promoting. Either way, your facts have completely decimated your own argument by removing any credibility you might have had.

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Conclusion: My opponent initially offered the common and popular arguments supporting a change to alternative fuels. However, when confronted with the facts he changed the frame of his arguments and proceeded to straw man. Finally when that didn't work, he resorted to simply making up facts for which he has no sources. In conclusion, my opponent failed to effectively refute my contentions, failed to provide evidence affirming the resolution as was his duty, and failed to address his opponents arguments. For these reasons I urge a vote for the Pro.

http://en.wikipedia.org... (1)
http://en.wikipedia.org... (2)
http://www.politifact.com... (3)
http://www.thedailygreen.com... (4)
http://www.nature.org... (5)
http://www.usnews.com... (6)
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by samille3 7 years ago
samille3
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.nytimes.com...
http://e360.yale.edu...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.gravmag.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://dictionary.factmonster.com...

Methanol 55 gallon = 208198 mL
$185 = (8.89 x 10^-4) cents/ mL
http://www.convertunits.com...
Potassium Hydroxide 2 lbs = 907 g
1 g = 1 mL
$6.95 = 0.77 cents/mL
http://www.dudadiesel.com...
1 gallon = 3.79 liters = 3790 mL
http://www.convertunits.com...
http://www.rsc.org...
1200 kg of vegetable oil produces 1100 kg of crude biodiesel (can make ratio out of this 1100/1200)
(1000 veg. oil) + (150 methanol) + (10 potassium hydroxide) = 1151 ml solution
(1151 solution) x (1100 biodiesel /1200 solution) = 1055.0833 mL biodiesel
Price = (150 mL*8.89x10^-4 cents) + (10 g *0.77 cents) = 7.8 cents per 1.055 liter of biodiesel
(7.8 cents/1055.0833 ml biodiesel) * (1000 ml biodiesel) = 7.4 cents per liter of biodiesel
(7.4 cents/liter)(3.79 liters/gallon) = $0.28/gallon
Posted by samille3 7 years ago
samille3
I ran out of room on round 3. Will post sources as soon as I get home.

Samille3
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