An Earth Day introduction
Remember when the Exxon-Valdez ran into a rock in Alaska, and oil spilled everywhere? So does the green energy industry. Since the disaster almost 21 years ago, Americans are more conscious about the fuel they use. In light of Earth Day, I want to give you a brief introduction to the latest trend in the energy industry, one of green energy.
To date, humans harness energy by burning something, be it wood, dung, coal or fissile material. Coal, oil and natural gas are called fossil fuels because they each come from ancient life forms.
Hydrocarbons are actually the most efficient fuel to date. Consider the case of England, once covered by mammoth forests. The constant demand for firewood levelled most of the forests by 1600, while producing similar environmental effects. Coal, while even dirtier to burn, had far more energy density than wood did and was easier to ship. Oil was even more energy dense and incredibly easy to transport.
Today, we are at the same position as 17th century Britain. We have not depleted our resources yet, but we see the end in sight. Not to mention they are still pollutants.
Enter the green energy industry. The industry as a whole started in the 1970s, but never gained real momentum until the 2000s. Today, wind energy is taking off, with Europe expecting 40,000 megawatts of energy by 2020, enough to power 25 million homes.
Is this commitment enough? Furthermore, can green energy survive without government subsidies? That’s a question I will explore in the coming weeks.
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