Renewable energy is clean, affordable, and reliable. The sun, plants, soil, water, and wind are all forms of renewable energy resources. Currently, we are in the middle of a shift from the fossil fuel era into the renewable energy resource era.
Although there are many people doubting that this shift can happen, it is coming and it is inevitable. Like any other change, the shift may be a little uncomfortable. The human tendency is to like routine, and changing that routine can cause some friction.
To those who would say that the switch away from oil and coal is impossible, I would point back to a time in history. In the 19th and 20th century, whale oil was the main source of energy.
Today, it seems almost silly to think that we killed such beautiful creatures to use their fat for light. Not too long into our future, we will one day think it was silly that we once fought wars to win rights over oil.
This is especially true since there are literally trillions of photons hitting the earth every day with enough energy to power the world!!! Oil exploration is devastating to the environment. Not to mention how terrible it is for our health to breathe in all of the noxious sulfur and nitrogen oxides.
Over the last several hundred years, we have built up an infrastructure that is heavily reliant on fossil fuel. Yes, it is going to take private industry (with deep pockets) to make large-scale changes.
But, it is also going to take millions of individual homeowners to retrofit and update their systems to make a holistic impact.
Large industry changes can only tackle half of the battle. Individual and community awareness is critical to making the shift toward a more sustainable future.
A 2015 study (in the Journal of Industrial Ecology) looked at the environmental impact from a household perspective.
The analysis found that household consumers are responsible for more than 60% of the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80% of the world’s land, material and water use.
The great news is that people like you and your family can make a huge impact!
According to United Nations, the earth’s population could reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, and over 11 billion by 2100. Every person on this planet needs to make the renewable energy and sustainable shift if we are all going to survive.
Fossil Fuel: A Brief History and Background
Coal owes its origins to plants that grew 250 to 350 million years ago. While oil and natural gases are derived from ancient aquatic algae.
The Effects of Fossil Fuels
In a prior blog, I mention how oil, natural gas, and coal are the main components (62%) to making electricity.
Currently, coal is the dirtiest of all the fossil fuels and produces the most sulfur and nitrogen oxides. These chemicals react with water particles in the atmosphere and create acid rain. Ohhh no!!!
The combustion of fossil fuel’s releases millions of tons of particles that cause respiratory damage. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 13 people have asthma. To put this into perspective, this accounts for approximately 25 million Americans.
Additionally, around 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema and 11.2 million U.S. adults have been estimated to have COPD.
The Effect on Food and Water:
As rain clears the skies of the millions of toxic particles, it carries the ash into the soil which slowly seeps into our groundwater.
Both the soil and water becomes contaminated and infiltrates the food production system. As plants grow they soak up nutrients from the soil and water, which we then consume.
The Longer Fossil Fuels are Around the More Harm it Will Cause:
The consumption of toxic particles through our water and food web has a powerful negative bioaccumulation effect. It is especially harmful to breastfeeding mothers and young children.
Clean Coal Energy:
This concept is an oxymoronic phrase. Clean “oil and coal” are just marketing ploys to make a dirty industry appear more environmentally acceptable.
Many companies engage in “greenwashing”. This is when their PR and marketing teams spend millions of dollars advertising an image to “clean and green” their image.
The Problem with Clean Coal:
Some companies install smokestack scrubbers to clean up the toxic slurry that would otherwise billow out into the air. This toxic waste is transported to and ends up in a landfill, where the components slowly leach into the soil and groundwater.
Additionally, Smokestack scrubbing requires large amounts of electricity and lowers the net overall energy output. This means that the process is much less efficient.
No matter how you look at the situation, if we burn coal or fossil fuels we are releasing pollutants into our environment. We are taking these pollutants that were once trapped deep in the ground, and releasing them into the environment. In sum, we end up ingesting many of these toxins through our water, air, and food sources.
Key Point Take Away:
Toxic by-product pollutants that come from fossil fuels are going to be released and enter the earth’s ecosystems in one form or another.
Finding a Solution:
The switch to a renewable energy society must be confronted head-on by homeowners, private industry, and the government.
You do not need to dramatically change your lifestyle to make a huge impact and reduce your energy needs. Making small changes here and there can have a significant impact over time. There are 2 ways to our meet our energy needs 1) reduce the amount we consume and 2) increase the amount of energy we produce.
One way, to reduce the amount of energy that we consume, is to retrofit our homes so that they become more efficient!
The average American household spends approximately 1/3 of their utility bill on heating and cooling.
Ways to Green Your Home: Increasing its Efficiency
Calking-Seal up cracks around the windows, doors, and electrical outlets.
Insulation– Walls and ceilings (attic).
Solar panels -Retrofit the roof of your home by adding passive solar panels.
Windows – add windows to the south side of your home to let low angel winter sun in. Does your home have double or triple pane glass?
Tip– On a windy day hold an incense next to each window. If the smoke rises directly up then no wind is passing through the cracks between the window and the wall. If the smoke blows sideways, then wind is getting through the window cracks.
***Make sure all the cracks have been sealed around the house. The goal is to make the house air tight!!!
Why Renewable Energy Resources are so Awesome!!!
One of the best things about renewable energy resources is that they are available for the indefinite future!
Even better, the amount of renewable energy is often predictable in most parts of the world. This means that there is a reliable amount of renewable energy resources each year.
Another big advantage of renewable energy is that the fuel is free, and it is not under the control of oil cartels, wealthy multinational corporations, foreign nations, or alliances (such as OPEC).
Although there is an upfront cost to tap into these renewable energy resources, no one person has control over the price of the renewable fuels. Once you have paid for the set-up cost, the energy is free and all you must do is maintain the equipment.
Additionally, by becoming energy independent you can protect yourself against rising fuel prices. The cost of electricity has increased by five cents per year over the past 35 years.
Switching to renewable energy will allow you to become more financially independent and live in a healthier environment!
Air pollution has become a major health concern in the United States and around the world. Please feel free to comment regarding any other benefits that could be attained by switching to renewable energy resources (like a reduction in insurance costs due to a healthier society etc).