Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Large Of An Environmental Footprint Do Renewables Have?

This morning I was sitting on the train and got into a conversation with a completely random person about alternative energy which I know is shocking to hear because it is a rare occasion for me to want to talk about this stuff...wait.

This person was asking me that if we are sacrificing so much land and resources to construct a wind turbine or solar energy field, are we really making a difference or if we are just trading one evil for another.

I can understand where this person was coming from, but I believe that this is a less complicated issue than they were making it out to be.  This is mainly because even though we are dedicating land and certain natural resources to the construction of an alternative energy infrastructure, these are mainly a one time "cost."  When it comes to coal or other non-renewable energy sources, these are ongoing "costs" to the environment through a constant emission of pollution.

The best analogy I can come up with is when you are taking off a bandaid:
  • Investing resources towards clean energy is kind of like ripping off a bandaid quickly.  It may 'hurt' in the short run, but in the long run you will feel a lot better.
  • Continuing with our current system of energy production is kind of like keeping a dirty bandaid on forever and you develop sepsis.  Yay!!!
In all seriousness, clean energy is clearly the way to go, and when you compare clean energy's costs vs. benefits against coal's costs vs. benefits, it is a no-brainer.

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