By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune
While the idea of “green” energy is appealing, we need to give it a sober look before assuming it will be the great cure-all for our long-term energy dilemma.
Green energy is defined as being renewable and hydrocarbon free. Examples are solar plants, which convert sunshine into electricity; windmills, which turn generators; hydroelectric dams; nuclear power plants; and internal combustion engines powered by hydrogen.
Going green can be expensive, and isn’t all that productive, with the exception of nuclear and hydroelectric power.
For example, the total amount of electricity generated by solar and wind power is equivalent to the energy output of only one medium-sized coal mine, or the equivalent of about 76,000 barrels of oil a day. The United States uses about 47 million barrels of oil a day, so you can see that when it comes to solar and wind power, we have a ways to go. Or so says energy expert Robert Bryce, writing in The Wall Street Journal.
Nuclear energy is much more productive, turning out about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. And nuclear plants could be built at a steady rate. However, nuclear plants are difficult to site politically. Several, however, are being planned, and probably are our best bet at going green over the long haul.
Hydroelectric dams provide clean power, but only about 2.2 percent of the nation’s electricity needs, and almost all of the good dam sites already are taken and operating.
Hydrogen can be made from natural gas, or from water through electrolysis, but both processess create a net energy loss, which means hydrogen, while clean burning, would be an expensive fuel.
Green energy sources are likely to be no more than supplementary, at least for as long as any of us are alive.