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What do we mean by alternative? Alternative to what?

Posted on: 6th September 2010

Coal was introduced as a 16th Century alternative to excessive wood burning which had depleted Europe’s forests to exhaustion. Petroleum first appeared as a cheaper more easily harvested alternative to whale oil as whale stocks were depleted by hunting.

Incumbent technologies are the more obvious oil, coal, and so called natural gas. Hydro and nuclear are also incumbent. Are they Alternative? Oil and coal have done civilisations work for over 100 years why is everybody so anxious to replace them with alternatives?

For clarity’s sake we must identify those technologies that we must replace because they harm the planet when we use them. Technologies that burn coal, oil (both called fossil fuels because of an un-proven supposition that they are formed from the corpses of multi million year old plants and animals), wood and turf (peat) are on the anti planet side because they are depleting resources, they pollute the atmosphere and (prima facie) heat it up. But ethanol (a favourite alternative fuel of the Green lobby) causes Ozone, has polluted the Mississippi river delta and is depleting aquifers. Can ethanol really be on the side of the planet? Biodiesel made from palm oil is the direct cause of deforestation on a vast scale. Can palm oil biodiesel really be pro planet?

Today all alternative energy technologies combined contribute about 10% of World energy needs. The dominant alternative is hydro which meets about 3% of World energy needs. Wind meets less than 0.5% oe energy needs.

Can we really abandon the fossil fuels?

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