By Marlena Norwood
Non-renewable energy causes many problems. Coal with its mountaintop removal and major greenhouse gas release is detrimental to the environment. The XL Keystone Pipeline for tar sands oil – incurring the most GHGs of any fuel source – will damage infrastructure, wildlife, and entire communities. Natural gas obtained through fracking harms our health. Nuclear plants use up large sums of water, extensive mining must be done to obtain uranium, and they have big issues with safety and waste disposal.
But setting these side effects aside, there is one characteristic common to all non-renewable energy sources, inherent in their definition – they are NON-renewable. The fossil fuel stores – coal, oil, natural gas, etc. – along with the uranium supply, will run dry in the not too distant future.
Finding greener and healthier methods of using these non-renewable energy stores is crucial in the short term. But creating a sustainable world in the long run hinges on the large-scale development of renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy comes in many different forms: solar, biomass, landfill gas, wind, and water. The problem is that the proportion of renewable energy in these forms is currently much smaller than non-renewable forms: only 16% globally, and 12% in the US. How do we replace the large non-renewable sources of energy with the renewable ones?
Incentivize renewable energy. Here the EPA lists federal and state incentives for facilities to use renewable energy sources. Taxing fossil fuel plants is one good solution – but governments must at the same time invest in renewable energy sources in order to speed along their growth.
One of the surest ways to make sure an idea catches on is to have it endorsed by the big league. The EPA released the greenest company rankings, showcasing how much and what kind of renewable energy they’re using. Intel is leading the pack with 100% of its energy derived from renewable sources. Microsoft comes in at a close second followed by Kohl’s and Whole Foods. With big, well-known companies setting the example for the rest, others will undoubtedly catch on.
Some ideas may sound a bit like science fiction, but thinking outside of the box is very necessary to come up with creative solutions for the future. From solar paneled windows to harnessing energy from rolling vehicles, New Energy Technologies Inc. is coming up with some great ideas. We’ll never know how effective an alternative energy solution is until we try!
How can you switch to renewable energy in your life?
- Have solar photovoltaic panels installed for your home’s electrical energy (and yes, even if you live in a gray city like Seattle, they still work!). Depending on the state you’re in, there are ways you can have a system installed that cost close to nothing, and you immediately begin saving on your utility bill.
- Using solar thermal panels to heat water is a low-cost option.
- Think about transitioning to an electric car. It may be more expensive upfront, but pays for itself in the long run! If you can’t go completely electric, look into buying a more fuel-efficient car, such as a gas/electric hybrid, to cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions.
- Some communities and counties are now contracting for their own electricity sources so they can have a much higher percentage of renewable energy (generally either from solar or wind farms); this is called “community choice aggregation.” See if your area has such a program.