What is Green Power or Green Energy?

“Green power”, sometimes known as “green energy”, is an energy source which environmental groups and ecological experts consider non-polluting and environment-friendly. The color “green” is invoked, because green is considered the color of nature (forests, grass). Specifically, “green energy” denotes energy sources that either create less pollution or have lower carbon emissions.

How Do Carbon Emissions Affec Global Warming?

Carbon emissions are considered important to those who warn about global warming because it is thought that carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere is the major cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide is thought to create the “green house effect”, where sunlight is allowed into the atmosphere, but heat is trapped by a layer of carbon dioxide. (For instance, look at the planet Venus, which is the hottest planet in the solar system, despite the fact that Mercury is closer to the Sun.) As the surface temperature of the Earth increases, the polar ice caps melt and the sea level rises, while weather patterns change (higher temperatures one place, lower temperatures other, drought and famine in places like Africa, more hurricane activity).

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Many scientists are concerned that, as the temperatures rise, the Arctic pole will melt. If the North Pole ceases to exist part of the year, it will no longer deflect ultra-violet rays into space (like a mirror reflects light). Instead of 90% of the Sun’s UV-rays being reflected into deep space, 90% of the Sun’s rays will be absorbed by the Earth’s oceans, soaking it up and transferring the heat to other parts of the globe. If this were to happen, global warming would speed up at an exponential rate, so that tremendously dangerous effects would be seen in a relatively short time (weeks or months according to some, 5 years according to others). The Earth’s water level would 20-30 feet and coastal cities like New York, Miami, New Orleans, Alexandria (Egypt), Osaka (Japan), Shanghai (China), Mumbai (India) and Calcutta (India) would flood in a fashion far worse than New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

This scenario fails to mention drastic changes in living conditions for billions of other people worldwide, as well as the economic disaster that would likely occur if world economic centers like New York City, Shanghai and Mumbai were made unlivable. It should be noted that many argue against the idea that drastic climate change is caused by man. These people, including a minority among the scientific community, consider global warming advocates to be alarmists. These people cite the lack of hard evidence that global warming “caused by man” exists. The purpose of this article is not to argue the merits of global warming, though I do want to provide a context for why “green power” and “green energy” is considered important in the modern world. Time will prove the truth about global warming.

Sources of Green Eenergy

“Sources of green energy” are those like wind energy, solar power, hydroelectric energy and geothermal power. These energy sources do not give off hydrocarbons and are renewable. Geothermal energy comes with its own environmental concerns, so it is mentioned less than other green power sources.

Unfortunately for advocates of green power, the burning of “fossil fuels” is cheaper than the cost of conversion to green energies. Fossil fuels are sources of energy which involve the fossil remains of prehistoric dead life found deep in the geologic regions of Earth: oil, natural gas and coal. To one degree or another, these fuel sources have been a source of energy for centuries, though they became the chief source of energy after the Industrial Revolution.

After the internal combustion engine was invented, gasoline derived from oil reserves became the most profitable energy source on Earth. Cars around the world, especially in North America, became the accepted mode of transport. Despite the efficiency and relative affordability of fossil fuels, the by-product is that fossil fuels given off carbon when they are burned. Some of this carbon is absorbed by plant life, which breathes carbon the way humans breathe oxygen. That which plants do not breathe (and convert to oxygen) drifts into the upper atmosphere. As time has passed and more automobiles have been produced and more power plants burning coals were built, the capacity of plants to keep up with modern industry has faltered. Carbon dioxide has built up in the upper atmosphere, and some believe enough have escaped into the upper atmosphere to begin the greenhouse effect.

Green Power

Green power is a growing part of the economy. In fact, citizens and corporations now have “green certificates” that are earned for using green power and green technology, and these certificates are traded as commodities. Green certificates are also known as green tags, though their official name is “Renewable Energy Certificates”. Companies earn these certificates by using wind power, solar energy, wave or tidal energy, geothermal power, hydro power and biomass or biofuels (wood pellets, wood chips, straw, etc).

The recent increases in the price of oil (2008) caused many to search for alternative energy sources. As long as oil is cheap, many assume that green power or green energy will not be fully exploited, because the cost factor will drive manufacturers and customers to buy goods powered by non-renewable energy source. As the supply of fossil fuels declines and industrialism in China and India increase the demand for fossil fuels grows, it’s natural to assume that oil will go up in price (in the long term, despite the current downturn in the short term). Innovation and experience should lead to greater efficiency in the green power and green energy sector, driving prices down. Eventually, the two of these trends will intersect and green power might become the dominant form of energy on the planet.

Renewable Energy

“Green energy” is synonymous with renewable energy and alternative energy, while clean technology is technology which does not contribute to global warming and pollution.