Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Why Renewable Energy? Part 1

Why should we invest in and use renewable energy systems?  The short answer is, “Because of what they can replace.” The arguments against our current means of energy production follow…

Chances are you’re reading this on a computer screen that is plugged into a wall outlet, which is wired to an electrical grid.  You pay a utility company for access to this power supply, and the majority of the electricity you are buying is created by burning fossil fuels, or by firing nuclear reactors. 

In our daily lives, most of us regularly depend upon the convenience of widely available, and relatively affordable electric power.  However, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years or so, you’re probably familiar with at least some of the problems posed by our current reliance on electricity derived from fossil fuels, and nuclear power plants. 

The inherent problems of creating electricity with nuclear reactors can be summed up with just a few words – Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl – come readily to mind.  Of course, even without potentially disastrous ‘core meltdown’ scenarios, the mining, transporting and disposal of radioactive fuel and contaminated waste products make this a very hazardous way of satisfying our demand for power.  

In a nutshell, the big problems with fossil fuel generated electricity are:

It is environmentally destructive:  The pollution produced by fossil fuel burning power plants accounts for over half of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause Global Warming.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy studies, the carbon dioxide produced per kilowatt hour of power plant generated electricity is between one and two pounds!  Electricity generation is one of the most environmentally harmful human activities on the planet. The impact of our current means of electricity production poses a serious threat to long term survival of humans and numerous other species.

It is unsustainable:  More than 60% of our electricity comes from power plants that burn coal, oil, or natural gas.  Our consumption is steadily depleting the earth’s finite supply of these natural resources which took millions of years to form.  Many geologists agree that we have already passed our peak volume of extraction of fossil fuels, even as worldwide demand for them continues to increase. When the last of the coal has been mined and the last drop of oil pumped from the ground, fossil fuel based electricity will no longer be an option     

It can be dangerous:  In light of the diminishing global supply of fossil fuels, governments and corporate interests of the world continue to manipulate laws, political alliances, and economic markets in order to secure the largest portion of ‘the shrinking pie’ for themselves – before it is gone.  Americans’ dependence on fossil fuels – particularly oil from international sources – makes us increasingly vulnerable to the instability of their supply. This fact forces us to take extraordinary actions, domestically and abroad, to protect our energy-rich way of life.   Obviously, our economic and national security can be jeopardized by the fact that we do not fully control the primary resources which power our economy.

For all of these reasons, the argument in favor of replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with alternative energy sources is clear.  Current electricity production technologies create an ugly trade-off: cheap and widely available power comes at the expense of our environment, our national security, and the sustainability of our way of life.   

Are you curious about your contribution to climate change?  Known as your ‘carbon footprint’, the amount of CO2 gas your energy use produces annually can be estimated with a simple calculator. Look for it in the environmental section of our links page where you can also find many great sites to learn more about climate change and the environmental issues related to energy production.

Continue to page two – to read about the benefits of solar and wind energy systems.


U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) flips the switch on Wise Power Systems just in time.

Wise Power's simple kits could advance Kenya's rural electrification effort.
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