Green politics, green party… these are definite signs of the times. For those that have never heard of this, the green denotes environmentalism and conservationalism. A good friend said to me recently that the economy is a huge proponent of who holds the power, ie, the gov’t. You save me money, you make me money and in most cases, I will vote for you. It’s sounds horribly materialistic but we live in a world that is run by money, whether we like it or not. Ideals are great on paper but they don’t feed our families. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as or more idealistic than the next person but I also have to be a realist. And the reality of the matter is that “money makes the world go ’round…”
But back to my point, there is a big push for “green parties” around the world due to, partially, the spiraling cost of oil and the juxtaposition of increased need for oil and quite simply, less of it. It is a finite and non-renewable energy source that the majority of the world depends on to a huge degree. Enter green energy. Wave, wind, sun. To a certain extent nuclear energy (more on this later). It suddenly has become fiscally responsible to seek out, produce and encourage more environmentally friendly energy sources. And thusly, more politically friendly. There are an interesting crop of new politicians in the US who are using green party as their platform, Kathleen Sebelius is one. She actually just spoke at the DNC (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/26/kathleen-sebelius-democra_n_121636.html – the text if you are interested). A whole new industry is evolving from green policies, a whole new way of life. It’s rather intriguing.
There are two types of green energy that I am particularly interested in, as it pertains to Bermuda. They are wave energy and nuclear energy. Okay, I know that nuclear word strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who is old enough to have studied Chernobyl in high school, but consider this, France gets 80% of its energy from nuclear plants (so approx. 50m people). It doesn’t pollute the earth much, new technologies have been created to make it as safe as a microwave (even more so really) and it SAVES money 🙂
Basically, you have these buoys floating on the water which are tethered to a wave engine below the water. The higher the waves, the more the buoy moves, the more energy is produced and thus can be harnessed. This energy must then be transported to land. There are a few bugs still in the systems, I’ll admit but where better to start work on something like this? Okay, well , Portugal actually beat us to it, being the first place to have a commercial wave farm but I call seconds! Anyway, it is a feasible option for a clean energy source, making use of the one commodity we have a crap load of – ocean.
Ah!!!! Yep, this one gets me all wobbly. I’m a severe geek and just the word gets me all giggly. I mean, we’ve all seen the movies, read the books and comics, studied the great accidents of the 70s/80s (?). There just was a tv series called Jericho on last season which alluded to a great nuclear bomb/accident. I’ll admit it, when you think about it as the small and short-lived human beings that we are, the actual concept of messing with atoms – breaking them apart, fusing them together – to release exorbinate amounts of energy seems like a really really bad idea.
That’s no longer the case. Sure nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous, but no more so than any other type of power station (Belco blackouts) with the correct safety procedures. The picture embedded above is the main component of my particular favourite reactor, the Pebble Bed Reactor. Just as the name says, it’s a reactor that uses graphite (among other fuels) “pebbles”. Each of these pebbles are effectively mini-reactors whose life span is two to three years. They are cooled using inert gas. This reactor is one of the safest ones out there today, using passive safety systems based on temperature – the lower the temperature, the higher the energy output, being thusly inherently self controlling. Created in Germany, you can find PBRs at MIT and certain other commercial nuclear companies in the US, in South Africa and in China. There are even places testing PBRs vehicle engines! The waste is less hazardous and easier to dispose of than other reactors, I mean, it’s a pebble. It does need to be stored but there are people working on ways to recycle the pebbles. It’s an interesting concept indeed. If you’re interested in learning more detail, check out the wikipedia site, which can lead you to more if you want. Also, if you might want to check out the grist.com website, an information site on green policies.
Are both types of these energies the answer? I don’t know but i do think it’s about time that we start looking at them. We are too small an island with too little resources to not worry about our own dependence on oil and petroleum products, never mind the rest of the world. Especially for those is strong support of our Independence. Dependence on a product to such a degree that we neither make no have any way of trading for can be something that will bite us in the arse later on down the road. So let’s start looking at using what we do have.