Positive Effects of Green Energy
Green energy (such as wind, water, and solar power, as well as other sustainable options) has become a hot topic and a “buzz word” recently. Even though it may seem that everyone is talking about green energy, few people are actually doing anything about it. While it has been seen in the news, it has not been seen in the fields and oceans where it can be harnessed and used. There are some wind turbines in use in specific states across the U.S., and there are places where water has been dammed up in order to provide electricity. Solar panels can be viewed in some places around the country, too, but there are no large scale projects currently underway to provide green energy to a significant portion of the public – and that is something that more and more people find disturbing. Solar energy, for example, is one of the best choices for harnessing long-term power (30, 2008). Because the sun is always there and the power from it is almost unlimited, the only need is to find the right ways to harness it so that it can be used for homes and businesses.
Wind and water are also great ways to get green energy, because there is always air movement (although some places around the country and the world are certainly windier than others) and there is plenty of water. If rainwater is harnesses, as well as streams and rivers – and even the ocean, there is virtually no limit to what can be done. Still, one has to be very careful when working with large bodies of water, because they are also habitats for a significant number of Earth’s creatures. There is already evidence that climate change is affecting what lives in the oceans (Brodeur, et al., 2008). Because of that evidence, there is a need for alternative, green energy sources that are not going to do any kind of further damage to ecosystems that have already been damaged by climate change.
There are also individuals who do not believe in climate change, or who state that it is a completely natural cycle for the Earth and has not been caused or accelerated by man in any way. Some who used to believe that are changing their tune, but others are holding fast to their ways of thinking. Even though not everyone agrees about the effects of climate change – or even whether it is real – the U.S. government is clearly interested in addressing green energy solutions, and has been for some time (Interstate, 1993). If the country does not do something about renewable energy sources, eventually it will simply run out of energy because the sources that are being used now will dry up. There is not an unlimited supply of oil, natural gas, or anything else that is being used for energy today. There are arguments to the contrary, of course, just as there are with any idea, but the fact remains that the Earth is running out of some of the things it needs to continue to allow production of energy in the way it has been produced in the past (Healy & Tapick, 2004).
Another problem with non-renewable energy sources is that they are coming under increasing legal scrutiny. Regulations are being tightened in order to stop greenhouse gases and other pollutants from getting into the air and water (Healy & Tapick, 2004). On the surface that sounds like a great idea and a wonderful way to protect the planet. However, it is also significantly more expensive to implement than the old ways of doing things. Because that is the case, it is quite possible that there will be a loss of American jobs when companies that cannot meet the new environmental regulations close up and/or move their operations to countries where there are not as many rules and regulations regarding air and water pollution, or what goes into the ground. Everything that is dumped on the Earth can eventually find its way into the water table and into the air, which means that all pollutants can cycle around from where they began and end up somewhere else.
Where green energy is concerned, there are no pollutants. Solar power puts off no emissions of any kind (Marion & Wilcox, 1995; Komp, 1995). Neither does wind or water power – or geothermal power that can be produced by harnessing the warmth deep in the Earth (30, 2008). Because there are so many different ways to get energy, it begs the question: why is the United States (and other countries) still doing things in the same old way, when there are ways that are clearly better for the planet and the people who inhabit it? There are several answers to that question, but one of the most common ones revolves around money. It is not that expensive to continue doing things the way they have always been done, because the technology is already in place and people are comfortable with the status quo. It would be very expensive to put green technology into use throughout the country or throughout the world, and the current economy is already struggling.
The other answer to the question of why green energy is not being put into widespread use is the need for better technology. Right now, there are no big plans to put green energy into use in the United States, and other countries do not seem to be that interested in doing so, either. Part of the reason behind that has to do with the fact that these countries are not yet sure how they could create a widespread, green energy revolution with the currently available technology. In other words, the technology that is used now is not enough to take what is seen on the roofs of a few houses and businesses in the way of solar panels, and extrapolate that out to a town or city (Komp, 1995). The technology for green energy is seen much more commonly for smaller projects, especially when it comes to solar power. Wind and water power are more widely used, but they still do not provide the kind of power of which they are capable, because man has not yet found a way to properly take hold of all that power and channel it into something with which he can work.
Wind turbines are helpful, and one can see them when driving across Texas and a few other states. The downside to them is that they have to be used where it is windy. If they do not spin quickly enough they do not generate enough power – and since they are highly expensive, not generating enough power means they are not paying for themselves. That is a serious concern when it comes to how the government proposes to pay for new energy ideas (Interstate, 1993). As long as the government keeps working on new ideas, something that works and that costs less will eventually come about. How long will that take? No one really knows, but it is clear that the technology that may be one year or fifty years in the future is already needed today, before the world runs out of what it is currently using to heat homes, light lamps, and operate companies around the globe. The power of the wind is one good place to start when it comes to green energy, but only if that power can be contained and channeled in such a way that it becomes much more affordable.
Water power is the most commonly used green energy option right now. There are many dams throughout the U.S. And the world where hydroelectric power is created. This is done by using the power of the water to turn turbines that produce electricity. That electricity is then sent out to homes and businesses in that area. It works well, and rarely breaks down, but there is a problem. There is only so much water to go around, and the power that is created from that water cannot just be sent across the country or around the world. For those towns and cities where the wind does not blow strongly and there is no easy way to channel the power of water, the sun is the best and most viable option for long-term energy that is cost effective and efficient (Komp, 1995). Still, the photovoltaic cells that have been created and used today are not large enough to power towns or cities. They are used on the roofs of buildings for the most part, to power homes and small businesses. Occasionally, a field of solar panels is used to power a larger business (Marion & Wilcox, 1995).
Until that kind of solar power is able to be used to power large cities, the U.S. And other countries will continue to struggle with energy and pollution issues. Unfortunately, the photovoltaic cells that are used now are terribly inefficient, especially for what they cost. A home can use them and end up giving electricity back to the electric company in many cases, but putting up enough solar panels to power a standard-sized home can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. It is a long-term investment that does not always pay off, because it takes many years of reduced or eliminated electric bills for the solar panels to ever pay for themselves (Marion & Wilcox, 1995). For some people, that never happens. People who do not get their money back may not mind, because it might not be all about the money. They are living “off the grid” in some cases, and they are taking it easy on the planet. Those things may be far more important to them than money.
For governments, though, money is the main motivating factor. Yes, the environment is important, but if the government cannot find a cost effective way to protect that environment than that protection will not come to pass. It is not about whether the government cares about the environment, but about whether it is possible to afford to take care of the environment correctly. The energy options that are currently used are really not that expensive, all things considered. Because they have been used for so long, all the needed technology is in existence. With that being the case, there is no new outlay or expenditure of capital needed to just keep things at the status quo. That is great news financially, but it is certainly doing nothing to help the environment or protect the environment from the continued effects of pollution like greenhouse gases and other problems.
Likely, there is also some fear of the unknown included in the issue of what to do about the environment and how to handle green energy. People get comfortable with the status quo over time, and when they do that they generally do not work to change anything – even if things really need changing. They would generally rather be uncomfortable where they are and just get used to it as opposed to doing something different. What if it makes them more uncomfortable? What if it does not work? Those are issues that have to be faced eventually, and the governments of the world would be better off facing them now, when they have many energy options, than later when they have fewer choices. The longer the U.S. And other countries wait to change over to green energy options, the more difficult it will be for them – and if they run out of time and must make rapid changes, that could be disastrous from an energy standpoint and also from financial and pollution standpoints.
Green energy is much better for the planet because it is completely sustainable and renewable. It will not pollute the planet the way that the current energy options are polluting the planet, and it will not run out in the same way that current energy options will run out at some point in the future. Those who are not worried about these issues do not see the need to change anything at this time, and they do not see the viability of green energy because of the cost of it and the length of time it will take for it to be implemented. If all that effort is put into it and it is really not needed, that money and effort will be wasted. However, those who argue for green energy and how much value it will have for the future of the planet and the people are convinced that something has to be done now, because time is running short. There are many alternative and sustainable energy sources, but none of them will do any good if they are not used. That includes water, wind, and solar power, and any other sustainable options that can be found and utilized.
Each time a proposal for green energy is “shot down” by the government or by a panel of experts, it means that the sustainable energy that is needed by the planet is even further from being implemented. Unless the U.S. And other developed countries find ways to sustain themselves by using renewable energy sources, what they are using will eventually run out and they will be scrambling to figure out what they are going to do next. That is a serious issue because there are so many people on the planet who rely on their local energy companies to provide them with power. They really do not think about where that power is coming from when they turn on their heater or turn on a light in a room. They take it for granted that they will have power as long as they pay their bill, and they also assume they will have gasoline for their cars and anything else they need. Currently, that is the case – but for how much longer before the energy sources run out?
Green energy sources never run out, so there is no concern about that. There will always be wind, water, and sunlight. Unfortunately, those sources are deeply underutilized right now when it comes to energy sources, so what is being used (like oil) is getting used quite rapidly. Some see the problem and others do not, but it is clear that there are no easy answers. Using green energy is very important, but getting to the point where that energy can be used properly and efficiently is not something that is going to take place overnight. Years will be required before wind, water, and solar power can be harnessed and used widely to take care of energy needs across the country and around the world. If the world does not start figuring out how to do that now, what will happen when the current energy sources really do start to run out and disappear? How will the world get its energy in an efficient and realistic way? Those are questions that have to be answered, and sooner rather than later. Even if the current energy sources do not run out, the planet cannot take much more of the pollution caused by them.
30 facts about solar energy. 2008. Alternative Energy Sources.
Brodeur et al. 2008. Rise and fall of jellyfish in the eastern Bering Sea in relation to climate regime shifts. Progress in Oceanography, 77, 2-3: 103-111.
Healy, J. Kevin and Tapick, Jeffrey M. 2004. Climate change: It’s not just a policy issue for corporate counsel — It’s a legal problem, 29 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 89, 96.
Interstate Renewable Energy Council. 1993. Procurement Guide for Renewable Energy Systems. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Komp, R.J., Ph.D. 1995. Practical Photovoltaics; Electricity from Solar Cells, 3rd Edition. Ann Arbor, MI: aatec publications.
Marion, W, & Wilcox, S. 1995. Solar Radiation Data Manual for Flat-Plate and Concentrating Collectors. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
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