For as long as there have been efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, there have been efforts to produce clean energy. However, the quest for alternative energy sources has not always been straightforward, and the renewable energy market is replete with controversy.
Renewable energy, or energy derived from natural processes such as the sun, wind, or water, is commonly accepted as being sustainable and green, due to its environmentally friendly characteristics. As a result, many countries around the world have pursued renewable energy sources, investing billions of dollars in alternative energy technologies in the process.
Renewable energy, however, is not without its controversies. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones.
Hydroelectricity, which comes from damming rivers, is one of the most popular and efficient forms of renewable energy. The industry, however, is not without its controversies either. For starters, many countries have fought to protect their right to water. As a result, large dam construction has not always been welcomed, with environmental activists and indigenous groups often protesting against hydropower projects. The issue of biodiversity is also a major point of contention, with many believing that large dam construction will have disastrous effects on animal and plant life. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), large dams can “seriously imperil the future of rare and endangered species.”
With global temperatures rising, many countries, companies, and people are concerned about the effects of climate change. One of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint is by using thermal energy, or energy produced via heat. This form of renewable energy, primarily generated via fossil fuels, is more efficient than wind or solar energy because it does not fluctuate with the wind or the sun. The controversy, however, is that not all forms of thermal energy are created equal, with some being more eco-friendly than others.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 60% of our energy is currently generated via fossil fuels, compared to only 40% generated via natural sources, such as the sun or wind.
With wind energy, the controversy is centered around how effective the technology is at generating power. The global wind energy market is valued at $16 billion per year. While some people see wind energy as a clean, green, and sustainable source of energy, many see it as a threat to their climate and property. The reason for this discrepancy is that the wind can be unpredictable, with some regions potentially generating massive amounts of power while others may not. For instance, the sail makers of Denmark have benefited from wind energy, using it to produce 75% of their country’s electricity needs. Still, the controversy continues in regard to how reliable the wind is as an energy source.
According to the IEA, by 2050, around 70% of our energy needs will be met via renewable sources, mainly solar energy and wind energy. If this trend continues, then renewables will play a major role in delivering energy security.
The controversy surrounding biomass energy takes place at the intersection of energy and food security. For decades, scientists and researchers have warned that increasing food production poses a major threat to our planet. The primary reason for this is that we are already beyond the Earth’s natural carrying capacity in terms of plant life. This is particularly concerning because around half of the earth’s vegetated surface is used to feed animals, primarily for meat production.
As a result, many people believe that the best way to ensure food security is through energy self-sufficiency. One of the most popular and efficient forms of biomass energy is liquid biofuels, derived from plants such as corn or sugar cane. The controversy, however, is that not all biomass energy is created equal, with some being more eco-friendly than others. The production of biofuels, for example, is known to disrupt the ecosystems of the planet, with large-scale monocropping, leading to soil erosion, habitat destruction, and pollution. As a result, many have called for a transition to a renewable energy economy that does not rely on fuel crops, such as palm oil, which is commonly used in biofuels.
The Role of Government
Countries all over the world, including the United States, have pursued renewable energy sources, investing billions of dollars in new energy technologies. In most cases, this has been done with the intention of reducing our carbon footprint and moving towards a greener and more sustainable future. Still, the role of government in all of this is a source of controversy. Many people believe that, by subsidizing certain technologies and industries, governments are effectively stealing from future generations, via climate change and environmental destruction. Still, there are many positive examples of governments supporting renewable energy, particularly in the area of technology and innovation.
The Future of Energy
The future of energy, and our sustainable future, will be determined by the extent to which we are willing to embrace and support new ideas and technologies. The development and implementation of renewable energy sources is one of the best examples of how changing ideas and shifting perceptions can have positive and far-reaching effects. Wind energy, for example, was once seen as a threat to property and climate, but now we know how reliable and efficient it can be.
The same can be said of solar energy and other renewable sources of energy. While some see these sources of energy as a way to save the planet, we now know how effective they can be at producing electricity and how much they can save us in terms of our carbon footprint. The future of energy, and our sustainable future, will be determined by the extent to which we are willing to embrace and support new ideas and technologies.