Information about Clean, Renewable Energy.

Renewable Energy is “not green”

According to Jesse Ausubel, a researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York, commenting on a recent study they completed: “We looked at the different major alternatives for renewable energies and we measured output for each of them and how much land it will rape.” Since July 24 when Live Science reported on this study and interviewed Ausubel, this story has been seized by those who are invested in maintaining the status quo and increasing investment in nuclear power.

We tend to agree with Gregory A. Keoleian, co-Director for the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. He thinks more in-depth analyses are needed before dismissing renewables and considering nuclear power as a viable option.

I think the characterizations made that ‘renewables are not green’ and ‘nuclear is green’ sound provocative, but they do not accurately represent these technologies with respect to a comprehensive set of sustainability criteria and analysis,” Keoleian told LiveScience. “The treatment of renewable technologies [in this study] is shallow and the coverage of the nuclear fuel cycle is incomplete.

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While this “study” is at best a specious attack piece for special interests, it does bring to the forefront of the renewable energy discussion a few key topics that we would all do well to remember:

  • No single renewable technology will solve the problems we face
  • Conservation and efficiency efforts need to increase in scale
  • Not all renewable resources have the same impacts/footprints, there are tradeoffs with each harvest technology
  • The power of heat stored in the crust and kinetic and thermal energy in the oceans are not central in these discussions – a miss as they are huge power sources
  • When talking renewable energy, people continue to confuse electricity generation and transportation
  • Nuclear power has some benefits if intelligent ways to manage spent fuel can be created
  • Coal fired electricity amounts to nearly 50% of US electricity production, it’s not going away. Cleaner coal technologies can only help. But, new coal fired plants should not be constructed – that investment should be directed toward a portfolio of renewable generation technologies
  • Education is important, until/unless people understand the impact of their personal choices, it will be difficult to transform from where we are to where we need to go.

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