Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where does your electricity come from?

Most of us probably have no clue what the actual source of our electricity is. When you start the dishwasher or turn on the stereo, where did that electricity originate from? One of my classes this term has focused on energy.. how energy is produced, our dependence on fossil fuels, renewable alternatives, and how our obsession with oil is leading to unprecedented changes in our global climate.

Most of the sources used to produce the electricity we use leave hefty environmental and health impacts:
Coal poses safety hazards to mine and completely destroys the environment. Much coal mining today simply removes the entire tops of mountains, which causes deforestation, erosion, water pollution and decimates entire ecosystems. Coal is the dirtiest of all the the fossil fuels and releases large amounts of CO2 ( a greenhouse gas) as well as pollutants that cause acid rain. Coal provides more than 50% of the electricity for the United States.
Nuclear Power contributes less to global warming and air pollution, but we are faced with the fact that we currently have no safe way to dispose of our accumulating nuclear waste. And, since some of it may be around for 100's of 1,000's of years, we had better figure out something quickly. Plus, there is always the risk of another Chernobyl.
Natural Gas is fairly clean burning, but still releases CO2. And, moving it from place to place requires either liquefying it or building large pipelines. These pipelines intersect ecosystems and can be detrimental to wildlife. Plus, our supply of natural gas will likely only last another 25 years or so.
Even some of our 'renewable' sources of power such as hydro-electric are not as sustainable as one may think..... the dams that are used to create electricity change stream conditions below the dam, destroy ecosystems, hinder fish migration, and change natural flood cycles.
Our best options for clean power are solar, wind and geothermal (and even these are not 100% problem-free), but currently, these clean power sources are making up only a small percentage of our total electrical usage.

Do some online research and find out what sources your electricity provider uses to generate power. Are there ways that you can choose to have your electricity come from more environmentally friendly sources?

If you live in OR, WA, CA, ID, UT, or WY, check out the Blue Sky Renewable Energy program. You can use their environmental impact calculator to see how much it will cost for you to purchase renewable energy and to see how much of a difference your switch actually makes.
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