Categories: Energy

Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy:

1.    Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, and manufactured.  It will take many years, maybe a century, maybe longer for renewables to begin to replace fossil fuels, and the infrastructure in place.  A sudden transformation to all renewables would lead to so much manufacturing, it continues to fill the world with new clutter and garbage left behind from the old techs.  In other words, if suddenly a solar panel was invented that would completely charge a cars' battery in one minute flat, and that car could run all day on the power, and such technology was so cheap that it was cheaper than building a gas vehicle....   Imagine you could stop at the new solar car store, and buy this new car for $10,000.00, and never have to buy gas again.  Suddenly the metal scrapping industry would go into overdrive as every car ever created expired worthless.  The existing auto manufacturers would go broke, and would not help with the costs.  The fuel industry would break as refineries halted and lay dormant, gas stations go broke, and there's no-one to afford to dig up the old tanks.  So too-rapid a change of any sort is not the solution, but positive movement in the right direction in a fiscally responsible manner is the key.  

2.    The majority of electricity that is generated is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries.  Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of chemicals, plastics, and materials that are used, break, and thrown away.  Renewable energy in itself is not a total solution to anything, but a system of recycling and re-using materials on a large scale will help to reduce our footprint on the planet and leave a better place for future generations.  That's something we all can get behind.  Some of the problems that include rivers of waste that dump into our oceans are ones we hope to curb no matter how we generate our energy.  

3.    The aim of converting from conventional power generation to renewables is seen by some as continuing to maintain the system that is harming the planet.  You see, as the internet went live around the planet something happened in the world that has created a conflict as never before seen in history.  Those who have been living with the land and without modern technology were suddenly able to see how the rest of the world has been living.  They see the planes, the cars, the luxury, the lifestyle of the United States and other 1st world nations, yet view capitalism as the persuit of money having been the cause for problems.  They see these nations as they are now without a view or perception of how they got there.  They see China deep in its smog and air pollution without the understanding that the U.S. had these same problems 30 years ago, but has been gradually coming through them with improvements that make for cleaner air, and bettering the planet in spite of the modernized ways.  With ownership of land often comes a disregard for the care of the land itself and the creatures that were there.  Often it's all about the dollars that land can generate that consumes the owner more than the nature that must be preserved on it.  Finding a way to balance economy with preservation is always important.  The good news is, in spite of the incredible amount of development that does happen in a nation, governments are able to control development by maintaining control of much of the land.  For instance, the U.S. government owns roughly 28% of the land in the nation.  That's a large portion of land that can remain completely natural without privatization.  A good governing system will seek to preserve the nation together with its people, and communicate well it's intentions, since social media has put the public in the communication loop, and the people want to know what's going on.  When governments and the people communicate, they will find that there is more to work toward together through good channels of communication than to fight over for the lack of it. 

4.    Humans, and all living beings get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive.  We must take care that food and habitat for everyone are not being sacrificed to feed industry, but the other way around. We must be careful to handle chemicals and their processing in a safe method.  Just as governing entities protect the population from bacteria in food, they should also protect them from chemicals and modifications that are made to food. We must not allow the production of energy to harm our landscapes, our wildlife, and our ways of living beyond repair.  Though Fracking, oil drilling, nuclear power plants, and other energy providers are necessary, they can be dangerous, but the amount of energy they produce can't be replaced by renewables for many many many years to come.  We must continue to work with all forms of energy production as forward technologies continue to develop.  There will soon come a crossover point at which you will see oil money funnel into renewables.  That point hasn't happened yet because the tech isn't quite there yet to make it a reality.  

One of the greatest advances in modern day energy reduction has happened with the invention of the LED light bulb.  3 years ago, a yellow stand shop light was powering two 500Watt Halogen light bulbs.  Today, the same light operates with two 19W LED bulbs that put out the same amount of light.  That means the new bulbs use less than 4% of their predecessors.  The first key to energy reduction is finding lifestyle decisions that lessen our usage.  That can begin with better ways to insulate our homes, more natural ways to build them, using induction cookstoves, instant water heaters, building rocket mass heaters to heat cold homes in the winter, and switching all lighting to LED in the near future.  These types of changes take prioriety before building new renewable energy infrastructure, but that can be happening slowly as well.  Change of infrastructure uses a tremendous amount of energy before it will begin to conserve.  

5.    Wind turbines and solar panels generate little, if any, net energy (energy returned on energy invested). The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal of these technologies is almost as much—or in some cases more than—they ever produce. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out.  This may be the case for some time to come, but with the brightest minds in the world focusing their efforts on bettering good ideas, and through the internet collaborating, this will begin to change over time.  

6.    Renewable energy subsidies have been offered for some time.... long enough that corporations have found ways to invest in business models that take that incentive away from the end user, and stick it in their pockets. Investing in renewables is highly profitable. General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi all profit from renewables, and invest these profits in their other business activities. It is important that the benefits of renewables stay focused on pushing the benchmark forward for the benefit of all as well as for the preservation of our planets beauty and resources for future generations.

7.    More renewables doesn’t always mean less conventional power or less carbon emissions. It may just mean more power is being generated overall. Very few coal and gas plants have been taken off line as a result of renewables.  There is much to consider, such as population increase, and general increases of use because of higher or lower temperatures, etc, but this is something to be aware of.

8.    Only 20% of energy used globally is in the form of electricity. The rest is oil and gas. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions (which it can’t), it would only reduce total emissions by 20%. And even that would have little impact, as the amount of energy being used globally is increasing exponentially.  But if each of us does our part, and is paying attention to what the part should be, little by little, we will make progress.  When that "big idea" comes along that makes capturing energy easy, the world will be ready.


9.    Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20-30 years, then need to be disposed of and replaced. The production process, of extracting, polluting, and exploiting, is not something that happens once, but is continuous and expanding.  Creative solutions like turning old washing machine motors and alternators into wind turbines continue to be among the few beneficial creative solutions that provide an extended use to old devices, and offer a truly good re-use of old junk.

10.    The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. This shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but an exercise in profiteering with no benefits for anyone other than the investors.

A complete rewrite and modification of a work originally published on Stories of Creative Ecology / by Kim Hill / via DGRNewsService



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