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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Support Alternative Energy

I am an environmentalist, but not the type that usually comes to mind. Unlike the environmental activists I actually have an education in the environmental field, and so I actually have some measure of understanding of how to care for the environment. This is why I support alternative energy research and development.

In order to meet the energy needs of a world with ever-increasing energy demands we must develop clean, renewable sources of energy. Fossil fuels are a limited resource. Hydrogen fuel is not implementable on a large scale. Nuclear power produces waste that stays hazardous for hundreds or thousands of years. We need alternatives.

My two favorite alternatives are solar and wind power. There will be wind and sunlight for as long the Earth has life. Harnessing these resources provides an endless supply of clean energy, but there are problems. Solar cells are not efficient enough at this time to be used worldwide, and may never be. The technology just isn’t there yet. Wind power takes up huge tracts of land, like solar stations, but with the added problem of killing the occasional bird. Offshore windmills are a very doable and attractive option, but environmental activists oppose these. So much for practicing what you preach.

Geothermal energy is excellent, but is limited to areas that have volcanoes and geothermal vest to run the turbines. It is clean and renewable power, but will never be usable on a widespread scale.

I hate hydroelectric dams. Dams are responsible for more destruction to the environment and decimation of fish species than anything else I can name. While I like the clean, cheap power, my stomach churns at the thought of what these dams are doing to the environment. This does not include dams built for flood control and the construction of reservoirs. Hydroelectric dams get built in areas that don’t need flood control, and usually where the river provides plenty of water without damming it up. On top that they are enormous, so huge in fact that it is unreasonable to build fish ladders for migrating fish species. The other types of dams can be built with fish ladders because they are usually much smaller to begin with, so they harm local fish much less. I look forward to the day when hydroelectric power is obsolete and these giant dams can come down. Until then they are necessary and must be taken care of.

There are other, stranger alternative energy sources being developed right now, and they may provide some part of the answer to producing enough clean, renewable energy to meet our needs.

The most exciting development however involves power transmission. Vast amounts of energy are lost to resistance in the power lines. There are materials in development right now that could reduce this power loss and give us all far more power with less energy being put in at the source. The most exciting new material is nano-tubes. Due to their molecular construction, nano-tubes have almost no electrical resistance. This means that they are exceedingly efficient power transmitters. So efficient, in fact that they can make solar power viable on a large scale while cutting coal consumption at coal power plants by as much as half or more. Building power lines out of nano-tubes is not possible at this time, but research is being done right now to fix this problem.

All of this is why I support fully funding alternative energy research and development. The more resources we pour into this effort the faster we can make clean, renewable energy a reality. It will be expensive at first, but will pay for itself and then some as time goes on. So while it is a lot spending in the beginning, the payoff is cheaper, more abundant energy for centuries to come. I think that’s a fair investment.

Environmental activist claim to support alternative energy projects, but they always seem to oppose them once anyone tries to make them happen. This is hypocrisy and it is tedious. Demanding alternative power sources while constantly claiming that no alternative energy source is good enough is the tool of people who really don’t care about the environment as much as they care about protesting, getting famous, or making money off the environmental movement. I for one am sick of it.

Support alternative energy research and development, make it a reality, boost the world economy while saving the environment at the same time. I dare you.

3 Comments:

  • didn't i see once something once about someone wanting to build windmills off the east or west coasts, and the environmentalists were all against that...mostly because it would interfere with their 'pristine' view of the ocean from their house?
    BoUnCeS!! LibbY!

    By Blogger Libby, at 8:46 AM  

  • Go Hydro! I belong to a Rural Energy Coop, REA, and we built/own the company. Recently a line was completed from Central NY to Plattsburg on the Canadian border, where we purchase power directly from Canada Hydro.

    Thus we avoid the New York Power Authority tax of 13 percent, and the proposed New York State Gas and Electric Fuel Surcharge (they burn a lot of oil) of 25 percent. Being on REA also has added 20 percent to the value of our Rancho--The Rancho Lumbago (there's a crick in the back)

    The rate here is 7.5 cents/kwr, and
    our monthly bill is less than $50 which includes electric stove and water heater.

    Oh, yeah, they return to us $30 a year as a dividend on capital investments, and the co's growing 15 percent per year.

    Keep those meter wheel's spinning, folks.

    Up the road, on US 20 near Syracuse, there are 15 working LARGE windmills atop a ridge. The Greenies in the 70's loved the idea, but opposed and opposed and opposed the idea 2 years ago when the mills went up.

    I like 'em. Everyone I see I know we're not paying some raghead thug for oil to make juice.

    By Blogger meesterjoneser, at 7:47 PM  

  • Couldn't agree more, technology is the way we are gonna beat the oil peak AND not lose quality of life.
    Conservation is another good way to go, and i don't mean stuff like sitting in the dark. Home insulation (especially loft insulation) can cut the amount of juice you use to heat your house enormously.
    About the offshore windfarms. One of the reasons some environmentalists oppose some of them is the same reason you don't like hydro-power dams. They wreak havoc on the wildlife where they are planted. Now offshore windfarms are a great idea, they just need to be sensibly placed. i.e. not on coral reefs or some such.
    I'm a big fan of little things making a huge difference when done on mass. While i don't believe living off grid is viable for anymore than a few dedicated people, augmenting your own energy production by installing a small solar panel or using geothermal to boost your home heating/cooling (not deep core geothermal, the couple of feet underground kind) done across a whole new housing estate would save huge amounts of energy with absolutely NO loss of quality of life.

    By Blogger Gribble The Munchkin, at 6:58 AM  

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