Organized efforts to be ecologically responsible with our planet and its resources have been around for generations. But it wasn’t until former U.S. Vice President Al Gore brought global warming to the forefront of the culture that the average American gave any thought to preserving the planet. One of the outcroppings of the global warming movement has been the introduction and development of green energy. But in the market where there are many impostors, what can truly be defined as green energy?
Green Energy in its Purest Form
Strictly defined, this type of energy is any source of energy production which negatively impacts the environment as little as possible. Setting a benchmark for measuring what is to be considered green requires that we use traditional methods such as fossil fuels as a starting point. Therefore, in terms of producing electricity, a wind farm negatively affects the environment far less than a coal burning power plant. The wind farm is green energy while the coal plant is not.
Through the years the definition of green energy has been expanded to include not only energy production, but also energy consumption. Modern household appliances which are rated as highly efficient fall under the category of greener type of energy because they require less energy production. The idea being that less energy production means less potential for negative environmental impact.
Though the list of greener energy sources is vast, we tend to think of natural things such as wind, water, and the sun. These natural resources produce energy in ways that have very little impact on the environment. But other sources of green energy also include things like:
• Nuclear power
• Clean coal
• Biomass energy
• Recycled materials
Nuclear is the Greenest of Green
Among all the energy resources that are considered green currently being utilized today, nuclear energy is among the best. It is clean, with zero CO2 emissions, impacts groundwater and neighboring soil very little, and is incredibly inexpensive over the long run. Nuclear energy is so successful on all fronts that nearly 80% of France’s electrical needs are met by it. France produces so much nuclear energy that it exports nearly 18% to other European countries and shuts down plants on the weekends.
Amazingly, even with all the fears that people have about the safety of nuclear power, France has been operating this way since the 1970s without any catastrophic incidents. French scientists have reduced concerns about storing radioactive waste by developing innovative ways to recycle their nuclear fuel. So while there still is waste to be disposed of, it is at a minimum.
Green Energy and the Auto Industry
In the U.S., despite a continually deteriorating electrical grid, the emphasis on greener energy seems to be focused on the auto industry. Auto manufacturers have been working on electric cars and hybrids for the better part of three decades in an attempt to bring a product to market that is sustainable. Now it seems as though we are closer than ever to an industry takeover by electric and hybrid vehicles.
Whether or not the world will ever achieve its green energy goals remains to be seen. One thing we can be sure of is that green energy is big business. And historically, big business has led to innovation, and innovation to a changed world.