How do you turn a light on in your house? Flip a switch, right? (Or maybe you have one of those cool “dimmer” lights). But what ends up being an effortless task for you has to go through quite a process- and one that’s loaded with political and financial baggage.
Basically, all electricity we have access to is generated by either a non-renewable energy source or a renewable energy source. Unfortunately, the majority of the world’s electricity is currently powered by coal and other fossil fuels, which are both non-renewable. Here’s the problem with that:
What’s Wrong with Non-Renewable Energy?
It will eventually run out. This is a fact that some people don’t want to think about, and for those big companies based on non-renewable energy, it’s just ‘someone else’s problem’. But it’s not. Our economies, our politics, and our lives cannot continue to depend on fossil fuels.
It’s a major source of pollution. In the United States, burning coal makes up for the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions. A single coal plant will release 3.5 million tons of CO2 into the air every year. And that’s on top of the mercury, arsenic, and soot pollution which causes respiratory problems.
What Are the Alternatives?
There are many other options for generating electricity that are all based on natural forces of the Earth. Thankfully, these are growing in popularity as more people are demanding a renewable and non-polluting source of energy. They include solar power (from the Sun’s energy), wind power (wind turbines are being added all over the world), geothermal energy (which harnesses natural heat emitted from the planet), hydro (collected at waterfalls and dams or from large waves), and finally nuclear energy (which comes with its own controversy).
It might seem backwards that the sources of energy that are clean and good for the environment are considered “alternatives”, but governments are beginning to learn that they can be depended on. In fact, Portugal has proven this fact to the world!
How Portugal Stopped Using Fossil Fuels
Earlier this year, the entire country of Portugal was successfully powered without the use of coal, oil, or natural gas for 107 hours straight!
That’s the entire country using only electricity powered by water, wind, and the sun for 4 straight days.
So far, this is the world record for totally renewable energy, and it’s providing hope to people around the world who were once skeptical that we would ever cut the umbilical cord with non-renewable electricity. Prior to this, Germany had powered the country for a single day with only renewable energy.
Why this is such a big deal
Portugal is showing the world just how realistic renewable energy is as the only source of electricity.
No pollution was produced. This is definitely taking a step in the right direction when it comes to reversing the awful effect we’ve had as a species on the planet for the last several decades.
It was way cheaper! When Germany measured their renewable-energy-only day, they discovered that the cost of electricity was in the negatives. Renewable energy was literally paying for itself.
What Can You Do?
The most important thing is to speak up! Be active in your local politics, and let your representatives know that you’re serious about sourcing environmentally-friendly electricity. You can also speak up with your money. Do your research on which companies make an effort to use renewable energy, and wherever possible, choose to support their business over fossil fuel-based organizations.
Finally, make small lifestyle changes like taking public transit or biking instead of driving. Use less electricity in your home by hand washing dishes and laundry, turning off unnecessary lights, or relying less on heating and cooling systems. There’s also a lot to be said for spending time outdoors rather than plugged in; not only will it conserve energy, but it will help you to build an appreciation for the amazing world you live in.