How Clean is "Green Energy?"

in stemng •  3 months ago

Today, the energy needs of the world keep rising. The energy consumption is at an all-time high- the world is an Oliver and it is continually asking for more. As cliche as it sounds, the above is true. Environmental activists have not ceased informing the world of the need for a clean energy. Alternatives such as the renewable energy such as solar are often mentioned in the category of clean energy. Nuclear power, too, possesses the ability to remove 64 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide plus prevent deaths of up to 1.84 million people as a result of pollution-related mortalities which is an outcome of the overdependence on fossil fuel between the year 1971 to 2009.


[image credits: Pixabay Commons]

The global climate change is a hot topic of discussion in the annual meetings of the United Nations Climate Change conference from 1995 to date to discuss a better way to reduce the drastic effect of pollution to our environment.

Let's take a look at the renewable energy which involves the battery. There is a 90% chance you are reading this article/story in a battery powered device. If you can shell out between $68,000 to $138,000 you may be a proud owner of a Tesla car and may probably pat yourself on the back to contributing to less pollution to the world. You may also have a laptop or phone with big size battery that can last for hours; which is good as it saves on the electric bill and in other words help save the world from pollution from fossil-generated electricity.

Those are all good ways of leaving less carbon footprint to save the environment but lithium-ion batteries are made from Cobalt, a mineral mined from the earth's crust and even under the seafloor below the earth's crust. Cobalt, the sometimes underrated metal, has a lot of uses. Up to 42% of this use is in batteries, with the rest of it as alloys, tool materials, catalysts, colour pigments in paints, magnets, soaps, etc.

The world's major supplier of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Central African country accounts for 50% of the world's cobalt supply. Most of the miners dig the ground armed with shovels and hammer. The people are poor and slave every day to extract cobalt from mines poorly managed by mine owners whose only concern is the cobalt and the price it will fetch in the international market. The risk of cave-ins or contracting serious diseases from the fumes inhaled daily is taken as part of the everyday hustle to survive by the poor miners.

The Center for Disease Control in the U.S has also stated the increased health risk involved in cobalt mining to the lungs especially through inhalation of the cobalt-rich dust and fumes which is common to the workers in the DRC who are as poor equipped as their health protection gear which is nonexistent.

The lung diseases such as the "hard metal lung disease", a disease which occurs due to long-term exposure o particles of metal such as carbide, cobalt are diseases commonly found amongst cobalt miners/residents living within the mines in the DRC according to this research.

Even if we are to forget the health implication of the mining community, there is an Amnesty report, "THIS IS WHAT WE DIE FOR", that examines the use of child labour, which is almost reminiscent of the 2006 movie, The Blood Diamond which follows the human right abuses and how diamonds finances guerilla warfare in the Siera Leone Civil War of 1992-2002.


[image credits: Wikipedia Commons]

Unscrupulous mine operators engage services of children who they easily exploit. They work for them for long hours in exchange for peanuts. Due to the level of hardship in the area, these children born to poor parents may never know they are exploited. They just get used to waking up early in the morning and working till night in the mines to earn less than $2 or less for their struggles.

Just like many jewellers did not do business or pay for "blood" diamonds (or diamonds gotten from conflict zone, use of slave labour, etc) through the use of the Kimberley Process, the US tech giant, Apple, recently announced that it will no longer buy cobalt gotten via manual hand mining.

The environment feels the toll of all these mining activities. The byproducts of mining (waste) pollute drinking water and the rivers with disastrous effect on the host community. The story is similar to the oil spills in the Niger-Delta area in Nigeria due to oil exploration activities with an increased infant mortality, and birth defects to newborn registered.

The toll of the cobalt mining industry on health and the environment.

Moving on from the cobalt, a constituent of the lithium battery, we enter the field of photovoltaic (PV) panels. We already know the world in the bid to reduce dependency on fossil fuel and reduce pollution, now tries to harvest a percentage of the gazillion watts, about 3.86 x 1026 watts of energy produced daily by the Sun.

Solar power is one of the sources of energy deemed to be extremely clean. An estimate puts the number of tonnes of greenhouse gases a 3KW solar system takes off annually from the earth to about 2.5 tonnes.

But producing the solar panels are not as green as many may think. One of China's main manufacturer of solar panels, Jinko Solar with a 9.81-gigawatt shipment of solar panels got entangled on a lawsuit over pollution in China's Zhejiang province where waste product disposed of in rivers poisoned it and killed their fishes. The villagers did protest this pollution to their waters and destroyed some of the company's property. The 500 man protest is just one in a series of another backlash from host communities where solar products are manufactured in China.

While much green energy enthusiast, myself included :), is keen on getting solar panels that will be more efficient, only a few show interest in recycling solar panels/. Part of the problem may be the long lifespan of solar panels- between 15 to 25 years.


[image credits: Wikipedia Commons]

The United States, for instance, have an estimated installed solar power of about 10.6 GW as at 2017. That means in the next 30 years we will have about 35.3 million solar panels that have reached their expiration date. Part of the problem of recycling may be due to the complex nature of it as each component of the solar panels will have to be separated. The metal part contains different metals such as copper, lead, cadmium, gallium, aluminium frames, silicon wafers used in the production of solar cells plus the encapsulating synthetic silicon material.

Even though the renewable energy may not be as green as many hoped; I think many are never bothered about this, because how then can you make an omelette without breaking the eggs?

We are made to choose the lesser evil and the renewables stand very much stands tall amongst the other giants- energy-generating process.


References


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I don't really think having a big battery allows you to save energy? The device still consumes the same amount, but you can carry of lot of charge with you which eventually has to be replenished. But ok that's a minor detail ;)

The impact of manufacturing costs indeed can not be ignored. I once read an article about electric cars leaving a larger impact on the environment than a regular car with combustion engine. Even a tesla, when using only green energy still has a larger ecological footprint thanks to production costs. (smaller e-cars tend to be better after all)
Let me see if I can find that article:
https://www.ft.com/content/a22ff86e-ba37-11e7-9bfb-4a9c83ffa852
This is the article from the Financial Times. I have written a summary about the study a while back in case this article wouldn't be available any more.

We can keep arguing about the production costs of various production methods like the solar panels or wind turbines, but overall I believe it is always a better option than burning fossil fuels and I really liked the sentence "how then can you make an omelette without breaking the eggs?" That really sums it up nicely :D

Finally I think it will eventually come down to the point that we need to be aware of electricity as a precious resource. We don't leave our faucets open because we are too lazy, so why do we do exactly that with our electricity? I think we waste a lot of electricity and in stead of pushing for those extra Kilowatts green energy maybe we can put some effort in reducing some extra Kilowatts in consumption?

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Interesting post. Some similar points I brought up (as a nano-/picoplankon) in a post a few weeks back. Nevertheless, externalities need to be taken into consideration.

What are the costs of the mining for the solar panel and battery components? What are the costs of disposing of the solar panels or batteries, or to recycle these components? All of this needs to be taken into account when determining just how much things really cost (both in terms of $ and the environment and the workers that do the work to make this energy possible). Interesting post.

I also wonder about as a community if @steemstem we should be thinking about doing an internal literature review here order to use the blockchain to reference and cross-reference "first in" on ideas posted on this blockchain, etc. I may follow up with a post on this. Thanks!

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Ah yes! I do recall that article. I believe posting about similar topics is inevitable but I might have some ideas to work with that. It sounds like an interesting concept and I'll make sure to check out your post about it to join the discussion there ;)

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Here is a link to the post I just published. Enjoy...

With the caveat that of course there is going to be repetition. There are really no hard and fast rules here...

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I agree with you on all you've said. I guess the power used in charging up big batteries still accounts for same as the one used in running the device. It only saves you energy in that the sun/electric supply is not always there-you can save for use later. I always say it is better to conserve energy than to produce it. In my country, only those that use electricity on prepaid meters tend to conserve it. People on postpaid where a fixed amount of bill comes per month tend to leave their light bulbs on during the day. This is something those on prepaid are very much aware of. In terms of water, we often use water from boreholes, the public pipe-borne water system is something you see being used carelessly, it's not hard to see running faucets and waste of such water. These are things we should put into consideration to reduce the energy dissipated in making the utility work.

This is an important article, and we really are trapped in so many other aspects. For example, plastic bags are actually far greener in their production than reusable bags. The ecological toll it takes to make reusable bags means that you have to use it between 170 to several thousands of times just to offset the damage to the environment compared to single-use plastics.

There's a new angle, spin and problem in every feature of green energy we're putting out there... it's tough.

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In the case of the reusable bag production, it is an apparent example of taking one step forward and two steps backwards. I've been of the view that reusable plastic is better than the disposal counterpart on its impact on the environment.

Green energy is just an alternative to the other kind. Im sure there are people working currently on the pollution . As for the workers that are being underpaid and working their ass off, the goverment is to blame for this.

Imagine the oil spill that happened some days agao in Nigeria. The accident was fatal and cost some lives. The same thing also happened again days after because the goverment sucks and all they care about is embezzlement.

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Thank you for your insightful input.

Hi @greenrun

That was an amazing write up, a well precised information on green energy . Though you didn't touch some parts of green energy.

But then, I want ask a question as regards to the statement below .

Unscrupulous mine operators engage services of children who they easily exploit. They work for them for long hours in exchange for peanuts. Due to the level of hardship in the area, these children born to poor parents may never know they are exploited. They just get used to waking up early in the morning and working till night in the mines to earn less than $2 or less for their struggles.

what do you think can be done to curb this?

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By following Apple's method of not purchasing cobalt mined by hand. If there's no demand, supply dies off.

Sadly, it really is about choosing the lesser evil, green energy might not be exactly what it is cracked up to be but it still is a significant step in saving the earth and till all the kinks are worked out, we have to make do with what we've got...another great article from @greenrun

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I agree, it is still a better alternative giving the features of the other options.

Most of the miners dig the ground armed with shovels and hammer. The people are poor and slave every day to extract cobalt from mines poorly managed by mine owners whose only concern is the cobalt and the price it will fetch in the international market.

I saw a coverage of this stuff on CNN a while back and it was so sad.

In the end, not all that glitters is truly gold

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Indeed, just looking at the other side of the coin.

Interesting read green, to know that our "give us green energy" placards may not be so much as green as we thought, at least not in the ways we produce or get the materials. All the same, you're correct, we did choose the lesser evil, and in a way, that makes us less hideous, I hope. -pangoli.

BTW, wavy 🌊.

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That was an awesome comment. We always go for the lesser evil.

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That was an awesome
Comment. We always go for
The lesser evil.

                 - greenrun


I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

Hello @greenrun

One of my favorite niche.

Even though the renewable energy may not be as green as many hoped; I think many are never bothered about this, because how then can you make an omelette without breaking the eggs?

To me personally, renewable energy, even though it seems to be more healthier and a niece idea, not gonna be an easy task.

Regards

@eurogee of @euronation and @steemstem communities

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Thanks for taking out time to be here.

So green energy refers on how to reduce the use of our daily energy consumption. Based on what you write above, it includes the use of solar panels. But there are also other way to minimize energy like using windmill, steam energy and etc. . I hope someday our world would become cleaner and greener.

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Yes, there are other types of green energy which I didn't mention in the post; a windmill is one of them.

Thanks for sharing. It has almost left me speechless. Though, I feel these are things that we can probably change for the better in the future. Maybe the greener ways to produce green energy have not yet been pursued because they aren't as profitable? The reasons for that could be numerable. It just seems to me the trend is for companies to support the most profitable ideas, not the most efficient ones. All of that inefficiency and waste is profitable. Thanks for keeping us aware and feel free to share thoughts.

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Every company wants to turn a profit. It's the primary aim of doing business.

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Ok, but you did see the problem with that, right? Look at the world of pollution and destruction that is all around you. It is that way so we all could make a profit. Coal and Nuclear power, for example, are extremely profitable. Hence the reason we utilize it so and watch as our skies become butt-fucked by pollutants. Energies such as wind and solar are not as profitable, so we do see it a lot less. I guess my point is, that the desire for profit has consequences. What if we could take the mechanism of profit out of the equation? I mean, war is profitable. If you like profits so much, then you must also like war by default? Is it any surprise we have so much war? Ever think that the problem is money itself?

Have you ever heard of a Resource Based Economy or the Venus Project? (money-less society, work is automated, abundance is produced so all things are freely available, no profit involved so sustainable energy production can be fully utilized, etc?)

It's a well written and detailed post. @greenrun, thanks for making us privy to what's behind the scene of green energy. Although it's the better source of energy but that doesn't mean it has no flaws of it's own. Brilliant write up.

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It is a pleasure to be able to do that. Thank you.

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U're welcome, bro

Hi boss

Not only solar panel sir, there is hardly any source of green energy where the energy is easily manufactured. Honestly, I think this green energy thing may still be very far off reach against what the majority thinks.

Nice composition.

@sciencetech from @stemng / @steemstem

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That's the fact bro. People just have to chose from the basic energy source or the lesser evil which is green energy

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You are right, I'm still a major supporter of going green, the other alternative is more harmful to the environment and the people.

I agree with you buddy. Even though the process of making the green energy is not entirely green; we still have to choose the lesser of two evils.
How about algae-powered photovoltaic cells, ain't they greener to produce?

Nice piece bro

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The algae-powered PVs will definitely have less carbon footprint and, of course, have less devastation to the environment when compared to the conventional solar panel.

I hope that others do not take information like this as evidence that fossil fuels are somehow better or cleaner. Sensible people should be able to see that the net gains from cleaner energy sources and distribution models are worth it, and that we can and should pressure companies to treat workers and the environment fairly.

We should be aware that just because something is better than an alternative, does not mean that such corporations should be allowed to do the bare minimum, and our voices as citizens and consumers matter when it comes to dealing with behavior like this.

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The fossil fuel is in no way better than the alternative energy mentioned in the post in terms of pollution/ adverse effect on both people and environment as clearly stated in the article. The post examines the side of the green energy that some may not be privy to. Thanks

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I think you misunderstood me. I said that the solar panes were created because a betteroption was sought for, and that is what drives technology; the question 'what better option is there?'

I know fossil fuel is far worse.

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Oh, I get it now. Yes, Technology gets better with time as it tries to solve humankind's problems.

Sadly, the situation is exactly as you described it: a poor man's destiny is the same all over the world...
Is this a deadline situation? Could this truly change?
I mean, what's the point of reducing carbon footprint by causing people's deaths from other causes, like cobalt mining etc., which are essential in manufacturing the so-called "green", environmentally-friendly solutions?
Why don't they find an energy solution that would be relatively harmless and abundant, so that it could serve humanity safely in the long run?

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I think there is no such technology to get truly green energy. I guess we may just have to manage the degree of harm done to the people and environment in the manufacturing sector.

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Fingers crossed, technology may have some nice surprises in store in future, such as nanotechnology, and new and improved materials. Who knows...

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Yes, the new technology is continually developing better safer ways of doing things.

So, green is telling us that the green energy which is supposed to reduce the greenhouse effect on earth is not so green after all.

Well, you taught us about more than green energy. Thank you @greenrun

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It is not as green as most may think. I think we are stuck in between the devil and the deep blue sea.

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It's like that with technology. Things are built with the old in mind, so it is not really 'doing away with the old' or 'good against bad', rather it is doing something better or less dangerous or more effective than the present. While I am tempted to say that is a wrong motivation for creation, I ask myself is there a better motivation?

Ah, there goes the comparison again. Hopefully we keep getting better until we do away with bad and get the good.

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The green energy is a great way of reducing the stranglehold that fossil-fuel driven technology holds on the future of energy together with its devastation on the environment. I'm a major proponent of the use of green sustainable energy. It may have its own pitfalls, but still a far better tech than the other alternative- the fossil fuel.

The advent of technology has really take a toll on the society though we have benefit from it alot. Thank you for the exposition

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Thank you.

@greenrun nice information

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Thank you.



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interesting never thinked that way the hype always take us away from the real facts of life but thanks to you for posting this

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Yh. It is hyped but at least its better. Nobody said the green energy didnt have disadvantages. We just have to keep working hard to make it better

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Have you ever thought about these hand hot air driers and the energy they use?

We need to think that not everything that says it is environmental friendly actually is.

Have you thought on the resources used for having the electricity for powering up the hand drier, what about the higyine? Eficiency and time consumed, even a few extra seconds are enough for not using them... or worse for not washing your hands.
What about the materials used? Same thing happens as stated in the "green energy" products...
We as consumers have the responsibility and have to do a due diligence to make sure that what we buy that is stated as green... actually is responsable with the environment.

hi @greenrun - just wanted tp thank you for being one of the first people to say hi when i joined :)