energy is an umbrella term that refers to any
source of usable energy intended to replace fuel sources without the
undesired consequences of the replaced fuels. Typically, official uses
of the term, such as qualification for governmental incentives, exclude
fossil fuels and nuclear energy whose undesired consequences are high
carbon dioxide emissions, the major contributing factor of global
warming according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and
difficulties of radioactive waste disposal.
Over the years, the nature of what was regarded alternative energy sources has changed considerably, and today because of the variety of energy choices and differing goals of their advocates, defining some energy types as "alternative" is highly controversial.
The term "alternative" presupposes a set of undesirable energy technologies against which "alternative energies" are opposed. As such, the list of energy technologies excluded is an indicator of what problems that the alternative technologies are intended to address. Controversies regarding dominant forms of energy and their alternatives have a long history.
The Germans have really taken off when it comes to renewable fuel sources, and have become one of the major players in the alternative energy game. Under the aegis of the nation's electricity feed laws, the German people set a world record in 2006 by investing over $10 billion (US) in research, development, and implementation of wind turbines, biogas power plants, and solar collection cells.
Germany's “feed laws” permit the German homeowners to connect to an electrical grid through some source of renewable energy and then sell back to the power company any excess energy produced at retail prices.
This economic incentive has catapulted Germany into the number-one position among all nations with regards to the number of operational solar arrays, biogas plants, and wind turbines.
The 50-terawatt hours of electricity produced by these renewable energy sources account for 10% of all of Germany's energy production per year. In 2006 alone, Germany installed 100,000 solar energy collection systems.
Over in the US, the BP corporation has established an Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to spearhead extensive new research and development efforts into clean burning renewable energy sources, most prominently biofuels for ground vehicles. BP's investment comes to $50 million (US) per year over the course of the next decade.
This EBI will be physically located at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The University is in partnership with BP, and it will be responsible for research and development of new biofuel crops, biofuel-delivering agricultural systems, and machines to produce renewable fuels in liquid form for automobile consumption.
The University will especially spearhead efforts in the field of genetic engineering with regard to creating the more advanced biofuel crops. The EBI will additionally have as a major focal point technological innovations for converting heavy hydrocarbons into pollution-free and highly efficient fuels.
Also in the US, the battle rages on between Congress and the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). The GEA's Executive Director Karl Gawell has recently written to the Congress and the Department of Energy, the only way to ensure that DOE and OMB do not simply revert to their irrational insistence on terminating the geothermal research program is to schedule a congressional hearing specifically on geothermal energy, its potential, and the role of federal research.
Furthermore, Gawell goes on to say that recent studies by the National Research Council, the Western Governors' Association Clean Energy Task Force and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all support expanding geothermal research funding to develop the technology necessary to utilize this vast, untapped domestic renewable energy resource.
Supporters of geothermal energy, such as this writer, are amazed at the minuscule amount of awareness that the public has about the huge benefits that research and development of the renewable alternative energy source would provide the US, both practically and economically. Geothermal energy is already less expensive to produce in terms of kilowatt-hours than the coal that the US keeps mining.
Geothermal energy is readily available, sitting just a few miles below our feet and easily accessible through drilling. One company, Ormat, which is the third largest geothermal energy producer in the US and has plants in several different nations, is already a billion-dollar-per-year business - geothermal energy is certainly economically viable.
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... while they are not really involved in any covert conspiracy, nevertheless have a stranglehold on people when it comes to heating their homes (and if not through oil, then heat usually supplied by grid-driven electricity, another stranglehold). As Remi Wilkinson, Senior Analyst with Carbon Free, puts it, ...
... Ireland actually has the potential to become an energy exporter, rather than a nation so heavily dependent on energy importation. This energy potential resides in Ireland's substantial wind, ocean wave, and biomass-producing alternative energy potentials. Ireland could become a supplier of ocean wave-produced ...
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... set up. Geothermal plants, furthermore, do not need to be as large as electrical plants, giant dams, or atomic energy facilities the environment would thus be less disrupted. And, needless to say, it is an alternative form of energy using it would mean we become that much less dependent on oil and coal. ...
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