Friday, January 16, 2009

No free lunch here

Andrew Leonard writes in Slate about how solar panel manufacturing has some really bad potential environmental effects. There are some insightful comments to the piece that discuss what should be the level of standard we use in approving new technologies and in the kind of tradeoffs we need to be thinking about.

But that's advanced stuff. I'm more interested in the vast populace, which seems to believe that labeling something "green" means it's harmless all the way through the cycle. Solar panels take the sun's rays and convert them painlessly to cheap energy. Or biofuels, which take natural plants and turn them into clean power. Or this, or that.

But to make these things commercially viable and technically feasible will require large industrial plants, and they'll require (as Leonard points out) such things as dangerous sulfur hexafluoride. With them will come many of the ills that we currently push off on petroleum production.

I'm not arguing that we shouldn't move ahead on these things, just that we shouldn't have exaggerated expectations of them. That's Tom Friedman, arguing that we need to have thousands of people working on energy projects in thousands of garages, even though I have no big desire to have my neighbor slinging around the sulfur hexafluoride (and I'm guessing my insurance company would be none too comfortable with that, either).

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics