Nova: The Big Energy Gamble
12 February 2009 Blog: More on Global Warming and Alternative Energies
This blog is a response to information in Nova’s episode “The Big Energy Gamble” which discusses California’s efforts to halt global warming by investing in alternative energies. For convenience’s sake, I am going to use complete internal documentation once, then stick to using ibid).
Extreme weather—including drought, fires, and mudslides—can be linked to the global warming that happens from producing greenhouse gases, themselves produced from the use of fossil fuels (Nova: The Big Energy Gamble, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/energy/).
But what if there was an alternative energy that produced no carbon emissions?
The Governor’s goal for California as per carbon reduction is 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050; this includes 15% from homes, 15% from power generation, 33% from cars, and the rest from carbon emissions caps (ibid.).
A totally clean energy could reach those goals much sooner—as soon as 2011 or even 2010.
There are things that can be done now at home: seal leaks in ducts, windows, and doors, and use energy-efficient light bulbs (ibid). But some people can’t afford any of that (ibid).
What if there was an energy alternative that was so efficient that those measures would not necessarily have to be taken . . . and everyone could afford it?
So . . . what sort of fuels are used and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Coal . . . advantages . . . well, it is there in the ground, and there are coal-fired plants already in use . . . But the disadvantages . . .Coal is a hydrocarbon; when it’s burned it combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, and, of all the fossil fuels, coal produces the most (ibid).
There are energy alternatives which produce no or less carbon emissions (ibid). And those include solar and wind power (ibid).
Solar power . . . The sun is certainly a renewable; that’s an advantage. And you can harness its power yourself (ibid). You can buy solar panels for your home, but those are expensive: one person interviewed on Nova: The Big Energy Gamble paid $32,000 for solar panels for his house, even with a tax credit (ibid). And his house isn’t all that big . . . it’s not one of those McMansions.
Solar thermal energy is also used: huge panels use oil to move energy and it is converted to steam (ibid).
That’s all very well, but there is the expense for the individual, and as per solar thermal energy . . . oil is still needed, and steam can be produced other ways. And what if it’s not sunny??? (ibid). What do you do on cloudy days? (ibid).
There’s also wind energy, another renewable. Wind turbines, each with their own generator, produce electricity, and the bigger the turbines the more energy produced (ibid).
But there are disadvantages: what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow? And if the wind turbines are out in the desert, how do you get the power to the city through the grid that is miles away (ibid)? And what do you do about the environmental concerns about building transmission lines to the grid (ibid)?
It is possible to not depend on the sun and wind . . . and to not have to worry about being miles away from power generation.
Natural gas is another alternative, and California gets 45% of its energy from it (ibid). Carbon emissions from natural gas are 50% less than from coal (ibid). That’s the advantage. But natural gas is still a fossil fuel and there are still emissions to deal with, even if more plants were built instead of coal-fired plants (ibid).
There is an alternative to natural gas.
Nuclear power fuels many buildings (ibid). But there are disadvantages: the expense, the dangers of radioactivity, and the waste that can’t be put just anywhere (ibid).
There is an alternative to nuclear energy.
Some people are afraid that energy from alternative sources will cost more in money and job loss (ibid). Wind turbines are built here, though, because it’s cheaper (ibid).
There is something that is cheaper, without using huge wind turbines, and without costing jobs.
For more information, please see www.campaignforgreen.com.