What Is Going Green?
“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” – President Barack Obama, March 15, 2012
Since Barack Obama has been in office, domestic oil production has increased and our reliance on foreign imported oil has dropped to a 20 year low, and continues to decrease. To make up for the decline in imported foreign oil, the US produced 2.3 million barrels of domestic oil in 2012. Under the Obama administration, the number of oil wells and rigs has increased from 150 in the year 2000 to an estimated 1300 in 2010.
This illustrates the growing need for energy, which will only increase as the population grows. The President and his administration understand that our reliance on foreign oil must be reduced, and they have also made it a priority to find ways to increase the production of renewable, “clean” energy.
Oil, natural gas, and coal are known as fossil fuels; they must be extracted or mined before processing and use. There is only a finite amount of these sources of energy, and the processing and extraction of these so-called “dirty” fuels cause many problems.
Fossil fuels create greenhouse gases, which pollute the air and land with smoke, carbon dioxide, heavy metals, and other undesirable waste. Disposal of water used in the process of extracting natural gas has already become a major problem. This water is heavily polluted with chemicals used in the fracking process, and has already leached into aquifers, poisoning wells and causing sickness and disease in humans and livestock.
Greenhouse gases created by fossil fuels are largely to blame for global warming. If the generations to come, and our planet are to survive, we must look to clean, renewable sources for our future energy needs.
With the use of renewable energy, it may be possible to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, but this is not just a problem for the United States, global initiatives are essential.
China, India and other developing nations’ need for oil is increasing at an alarming rate, driving up the cost of crude oil globally. By producing clean energy from renewable sources, we will no longer be at the mercy of foreign governments, or the price of imported energy increased by scarcity, war and natural disasters.
What is Renewable or Clean Energy?
The main sources of renewable energy are waterpower, the sun, geothermal heat, and wind, and enormous efforts are being taken to develop ways of using this energy.
Regulations governing emissions from cars, and the demand for increased fuel efficiency were a challenge to the auto industry but those demands have been met, and standards exceeded.
Our next challenge will be to design efficient buildings that will generate all or most of their own clean energy, thereby reducing demand.
By harnessing renewable energy, everyone will benefit from cleaner air, less pollution, and better health, and future generations will benefit from not having to deal with fuel price volatility.
State by State
Some states are way ahead of others in the development of renewable energy sources. New York projects that clean energy sources will be able to meet at least 40% of its energy demands by the year 2030. In 2012, 11% of the state’s consumption came from renewable sources.
Texas, always regarded as the “oil state”, is number one in producing wind energy and bio diesel fuel, although those sources of energy only accounted for slightly under 4% of the total energy consumed within the state. The good news is, production of bio diesel fuels is increasing, using waste byproducts from forestry operations, livestock, wastewater, and landfills.
Texas actually met its renewable energy target 15 years ahead of time.
There is still a long way to go. For the homeowner it is not as simple as attaching solar panels to the roof, or building a windmill in the backyard. There is still the problem of cloudy days and periods without wind. Efficient storage and distribution of renewable energy is the key, so it’s essential we continue to develop new ways to solve these problems.
Laws vary from state to state when it comes to net metering. Net metering occurs when homes, farms, and businesses feed excess electricity back into the power grid. In some states, credit is only valid for one month, while in others credit can be accumulated and money given back to the household or business that generates the excess energy. In California, for example, that amount equals exactly what a business or homeowner would pay for electricity.
Solar Power versus Wind Power
Solar power is by far the best choice for the world’s renewable energy needs. More energy comes to the United States from the sun in one day than the entire country uses in one year, but the biggest problem is harnassing that power, while making sure this infinite source of clean energy is affordable.
Sacramento California is one of the nation’s leaders in solar power technology. New homes are being built with solar cells in place and many public places are shaded with solar panels.
In the Mojave desert, the Kramer Solar Junction Power Facility covers over 1000 acres and generates more energy than all the solar panels in the USA put together – over 150 megawatts – or enough power to run nearly one quarter of a million homes in the Los Angeles area.
This is not a photovoletic system, it uses mirrors that direct heat onto tubes of synthetic oil, which heats to 700 degrees and then passes into boilers that power electric turbines. There is hardly any emission of carbon dioxide during the process.
With vast areas of our planet covered in desert – places where nothing lives or grows – solar power using this or similar systems would appear to be an excellent solution for providing much of the world’s energy.
Generating energy using wind power is effective, but requires vast areas of land likes Texas has, preferably away from residential areas. Many residents in small European countries, where there are no such areas of open land, complain that wind turbines installed near homes are noisy and when turning, under certain light conditions, cause a strobe effect.
Solar Power for Homes and Businesses
According to UN forecasts, world population will reach approx 10.1 billion by the year 2100. In 2011, world population was 7 billion, so the need for affordable and clean energy will grow accordingly. New construction must include solar cells and panels in order to satisfy a new generation of energy needs.
If you’re thinking big black solar panels on the roof, think again, there are now a number of very effective and efficient alternatives. Solar roof tiles blend into most roofs better than large solar panels do, and even if you have a tiled roof, there are cells that can fitted within existing tiles.
The downside of using solar energy to run water heaters, fans, indoor lighting etc., is the initial cost, but that is coming down. Local authorities, State, and Federal Government offer grants to help with installation costs. It is a wise investment.
Unless you live in the Majove desert, it’s unlikely you’ll get enough sun to consistently generate the amount of power you need to run your home or business, so for now, you’ll still need to draw electricty from your local power plant.
Net metering is certainly an incentive, you could earn enough to cover the power bill during times when the weather isn’t favorable.
If you’re considering using an alternative energy source in your home, first check to see how much of the cost you can recoup with a grant. If you’re having a new house built, it makes sense to include an alternative energy source. In my opinion all new construction, including businesses, apartments, family homes and all new government buildings should be required to install clean energy systems.