President Barack Obama’s State of the Union 2011, WINNING THE FUTURE, in full, took place last week (January 25, 2011, 9:00P.M. EST): http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2011 (the best site to view STATE of the UNION 2011)
The portion of President Obama’s address directly concerning Energy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAhut_6JAzw
As always, President Obama spoke with inspiration, poise, and optimism. But instead of using the term “Renewable Energy Technology”, he was using “Clean Energy Technology”, with a new and hopeful goal of 80% of our electricity will be coming from clean energy sources by 2035. So, let’s take a look to see if there is any difference between the two terminologies or are they synonymous.
Based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy , renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). Whereas US Department of Energy source, http://www.eere.energy.gov/ , listed Solar, Wind, Water, Biomass, Geothermal, Hydrogen & Fuel Cells under the category of Renewable Energy. Mankind has turned toward renewable energy due to the rising oil prices, eventual depletion of fossil fuels, and concern for adverse environmental impact of conventional energy sources. For better understanding of how each and every one of these renewable energy works, please refer to links below:
1. How Solar Energy Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-solar-energy-works.html
2. How Wind Energy Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-wind-energy-works.html
3. How Water Energy/Hydrokinetic Energy Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-hydrokinetic-energy-works.html
4. How Biomass Energy Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-biomass-energy-works.html
5. How Geothermal Energy Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-geothermal-energy-works.html
6. How Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Work: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/technologies_and_fuels/hybrid_fuelcell_and_electric_vehicles/how-a-fuel-cell-works.html
But this seems to be more of an energy storing mechanism rather than energy source. We also have to address the question of source of hydrogen and the cost associated with this process. Overall, from all sources, there seems to be a consensus that Solar, Wind, Water/Hydro, Biomass, and Geothermal are the generally accepted consideration for renewable energy sources. Whether or not any particular renewable energy source is also considered as clean energy source depends on your definition of “clean energy”, meaning how much or how little the CO2 emission and/or other pollutant is involved. In some cases, environmental impacts are part of the consideration/equation. In President Obama’s State of the Union 2011 on the eve of Jan. 25, 2011, he appeared to have considered the clean energy source as energy source that specifically includes solar (a renewable energy), wind (a renewable energy), nuclear, natural gas, and clean coal. There was no mention of geothermal, hydro, or biomass portion of the renewable energy sources. This may had been due to the fact that : geothermal process may involve heavy metal pollution and great need of water use; hydro energy historically had been associated with negative environmental impact; biomass had only played a very small part in the renewable energy scene. As for the inclusion of nuclear, natural gas, and clean coal, there may be much discussions. So, let’s take a look at how these three types of energy source work:
1. How Nuclear Power Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_technology/how-nuclear-power-works.html
2. How Natural Gas Works: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-natural-gas-works.html
Even though I may not have personally considered nuclear, natural gas, and clean coal as part of the clean energy portfolio, I understand this reflects President Obama’s pragmatic nature/disposition, hoping to make a smooth transition rather than an immediate switch-over into a low-carbon economy, with the goal of increased generation from domestic fossil fuels and renewables while cutting carbon emissions and reducing dependence on foreign energy. Once again, his attempt in bringing diversified groups to the same table and reinforcing the concept of “we are all in this together” is demonstrated. If President Obama is able to bring all of these groups together, then I am in favor of a straight carbon tax (penalty charges based directly/ proportionally on the amount of carbon emission by a particular group or industry) that will be easily and fairly understood and implemented.
Thanks to those of you who have been reading my blog and writing to me. Your remarks are welcomed. Please feel free to publicly leave your remarks so that more of us may be able to easily share your insights. I also welcome any questions or concerns you may have regarding the renewable and clean energy issue. I would really like to compile as many and as basic as the questions/ concerns may be involved in renewable and/or clean energy. As you can see, just the basic definition of Clean Energy vs. Renewable Energy may take quite a while. But with changing time and political expediency, definitions may fluctuate with time. As for those of you who are teaching our youth/leaders of tomorrow, please feel free to ask your students to post comments or questions. Much of our decisions today will impact these youths tomorrow.
Posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker