When choosing a form of energy for your home, many people would ask themselves what is the most Earth-friendly power source that you can use? Is it hydro, solar or nuclear power? What about wind power or coal and natural gas? What about geo-thermal power? How do each of these compare?
And what if I said it was really that last question that matters because many of us have a choice for our power sources, while many of us don’t. Furthermore, those of us who do have a choice often do not have the full range of choices available to us.
And none of the choices are perfect.
Just to make the point, let’s say you rent an apartment in a major U.S. city that is in a state with a regulated energy market. If so, you have to take the power source the local provider uses, which is likely to be the cheapest form available. That might be coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro or wind power.
Let’s say you rent an apartment in a city in a deregulated energy market. That means, your local energy distributor – the utility company that owns the wire and transformers that bring electricity to your home – will likely offer you a choice of where to buy the electricity used in your home.
This gets complicated fast. How do you judge one company against another, given they use their own terminology and present customized options to customers? Thankfully, the Internet can help. check out what explains deregulation in simple terms while also putting consumer choices side by side so they can make informed decisions.
If you are really seeking an Earth-friendly source of power and you live in a city, the chances are you are not going to be able to put a solar panel or a wind turbine on your balcony or apartment building roof. If you are relatively poor and live in the country, you also will not likely be able to afford to create your own power, even if you wanted to.
The point is, there is a lot of reality that gets in the way of dreaming up a perfect source of power and getting enough of that power to our homes.
You could list pros and cons of each power source. Wind turbines are often considered too noisy for many locations. They also don’t work when the wind isn’t blowing. They also disrupt some bird migration patterns or disrupt the views that people enjoy.
But wind power is on the upswing, because it is considered carbon-emissions free, even though the factory that made the turbine has a carbon footprint.
Burning natural gas, of course, does release carbon into the air, but it is considered an extremely clean power source, because it has a much simpler chemical makeup than coal, which is still the world’s most used power source.
Natural gas is made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. According to the American Gas Association, this makes it a far cleaner substance to burn than oil, coal or firewood, all of which are thick with impurities.
This accounts for its reputation as an eco-friendly power source given all the impurities in other options.
Nuclear power has its proponents and its detractors and is a prime example of the complicated considerations when it comes to a power source for your home.
Nuclear power is considered the cleanest power source. The only emissions from a nuclear power plant is water vapor. As far as carbon emissions, it is considered pollution-free.
So, why isn’t nuclear power considered the obvious answer to our climate change worries? To many it is. But to others using a radioactive fuel for power is far too high a risk for our health. That risk might be called a potential polluter, given that a nuclear power plant in its day to day operations does no release radioactivity into the environment.
Others point out that it takes enormous amounts of cement to make the concrete cooling towers and protective shells used at nuclear power plants. Concrete does not release carbon into the atmosphere, but it takes enormous amounts of heat to create cement. As such, the cement industry is responsible for 5 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions on an annual basis, according to Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
This shows how complicated it can be to choose an Earth-friendly power source. Each source has pros and cons, including the prices that are required to build the equipment or heat a home. Firewood is relatively cheap, but it means burning many impurities at a relatively low temperature, which would make it a poor choice in terms of its impact, but a good choice no economic grounds.
If the price didn’t matter, the world would look at its energy needs very differently. But there are more than 7 billion people on the planet and to price energy beyond the reach of the poorest citizens would be the equivalent of genocide.
The choices aren’t easy, even when they seem to be. But it all depends on the energy plans you choose and there are many factors that you should consider and compare every energy provider that you plan to choose. Prepare what questions you need to ask the energy providers as it can help you more in what you can actually receive from the energy provider. Also, plan ahead if you want to choose electricity or natural gas and do your homework thoroughly by knowing the pro and cons. Lastly, visit a couple of energy providers so that you can get a fair value for with the rate comparison and what plan you actually need.