Ask anyone who has foreign policy expertise; they will certainly agree that energy is going to be a vital force shaping the foreign policy arena. The country which is going to lead other nations in energy sector is obviously going to have a major stake in the pie of external diplomacy. But now energy sector is considered to be one of the beleaguered sectors like automobiles. Green energy investments are substantially low compared to the level fixed by the international Energy Agency. People usually think green energy is all about solar energy though it is just the beginning of it. Even oil and natural gas can be extracted using sophisticated technologies to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.
Area like Biofuel has always interested scientists who are working on the green technologies. Biofuels are usually the ethanol made from sweet corn, sugar cane and also biodiesel made from vegetable oil. This first generation Biofuels has provoked intense backlash since the land used for Biofuel cultivation might have been used for food production. This is very crucial in getting political momentum since the food prices are continue to rise. Recently, scientist believe second generation Biofuels can be made from plant wastes, crops grown for the purpose on land not suitable for food production offer promise and also eliminate the political clumsiness associated with Biofuels. Apparently, this technology is in the nascent stage and needs vigorous experiments.
One of the earliest clean energy technologies was nuclear energy but the fear of arms race in the world has always increased political backlash. Though nuclear energy is considered to be an alternative for low carbon emission, the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has appeared in the minds of people who vehemently oppose it. Political protest in their own country as well as scrutiny from International Atomic Energy Agency may force the Governments to use the technology for peaceful purpose. There are several treaties such as Non proliferation treaty, Test Ban treaty, etc to check the creation of most dangerous atom bomb. Nuclear technology is big political muscle in the international diplomacy; US emerged as super power because of its nuclear war heads. But some countries don’t like American hegemony in nuclear technology and started manufacturing bombs in stealth. If all the tension between countries over nuclear technology ends, we can expect greener earth too but it is far too ambitious.
Tide and wave power also has huge potential since tidal and wave are renewable. But there are technologies hurdles in developing turbines to tap the up and down of waves as well as ebb and flow of the tides. Recent technological developments have made things possible to harness the wave power efficiently but tidal power is still difficult because there are only certain locations on earth which has good differential tidal waves required. Ocean thermal energy which exploits difference in temperature between surface and deep waters (confining to mainly to tropical regions) has huge potential in the future. Cost competitive technological production is underway. Geothermal is another interesting technology which harnesses the enormous heat from the earth.
The most widely used renewable are Hydro, Solar and Wind because of the availability of cost competitive technology and also it enjoys subsidies from Governments. To combat the climate change we desperately need to replace high greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuel power. Hydro power for instance is used in many countries but failure of monsoon usually results in very poor output so it is not highly reliable source of power. Solar power such as concentrating solar power using mirrors to reflect and focus the sun’s rays providing heat to generate power and also photovoltaic panels now enjoys popularity. Governments around globe are encouraging homeowners and businesses to use solar power wherever possible. Though it has received lurk warm response so far but it is expected to increase since the awareness level is rising among public.
Wind turbines are famous for its cost advantage. It is touted that wind farms will provide ample economic opportunities for the farmers in developing countries since they can earn money through leasing of lands. Tropical regions are the best places for generating wind power. We need to act fast to save the world by utilizing greener technologies. For companies to use green technologies, consumers first need to change their attitude towards products. It is not right to perceive greener products as most expensive. Actually non green products cause lots of damage to the environment which results in the loss of billions. Let us hope we realize that!
Sathiya Velan Subramaniyam
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