It has become the modern equivalent of the Holy Grail: An energy source that can be used again and again without harming the environment. It's a quest that has grown increasingly dire as our atmosphere warms and prices of our traditional energy sources are bid up.
So, what is green, renewable energy, anyway? It's a more difficult question than it might appear. Certainly the fossil fuels we've traditionally used don't count. They pollute and while their supplies may still be large, we will eventually run out. And in the meantime, they give off greenhouse gases.
Most people can agree, though, that green and renewable energy sources include solar from the sun and geothermal, which comes from earth's natural heat. Geothermal is still in its infancy, though, and solar has not been developed to anything like the efficiency many would desire, though. (Solar advocates, as you might expect, disagree. And improvements are being made.)
Wind and tidal energy are also definitely renewable. But, while many people would also call them "green," wind energy still has some problems with fatally whacking birds that happen to fly by although that's been controlled a great deal since wind energy's early days in the 1970s. And tidal energy hasn't been developed enough yet to know what environmental problems it might pose.
What about nuclear? It's definitely renewable. But is it "green?" That's what some environmentalists concerned about global warming are saying. But there's that nasty issue of the waste. We really haven't figured out what do with the radioactive byproducts which will remain dangerous for many thousands of years. Greenpeace International solidly opposes nuclear energy (see www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/nuclear), while a Greenpeace founder argues in favor of it (see tinyurl.com/qa6rn).
What if you want to go green? More than 600 utilities nationwide about one-fifth of the total, serving more than half the nation's population offer a "green pricing" option that allows you to purchase at least part of your power from a renewable supplier, usually at a premium.
You could also consider installing equipment to generate solar or even wind energy at your own house. Remember that wind energy goes way back to Holland's windmills, and people have been drying fruits for thousands of years using the power of the sun.
Of course, the very best thing you can do is to conserve energy in the first place. It's cheapest, easiest, and most effective.
For more info:
* A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: www.eere.energy.gov/consumer
* Tools to assess your home's energy use and learn how to save money: www.energy.gov/yourhome.htm
* More from TheDailyGreen: www.thedailygreen.com/2007/04/18/get-green-power/874/
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