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Noel Laporte

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What form of renewable energy has or will have the lowest impact on biodiversity?

Climate change, air pollution, rising sea levels and species extinction can all be attributed to the increasing usage of non-renewable energy in the world today. Non-renewable energy reserves are diminishing and finite with an ever-increasing demand from countries around the world. Coal, natural gas and oil all have detrimental effects on the environment. These effects are both local and global, harming species throughout the world. As we consider different renewable forms of energy, can we rank their potential impacts on biodiversity?


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    Apr 23 2013: With any form of renewable energy, we must take into consideration the environmental costs associated with producing/storing this energy. What I mean is, in order to produce things like wind turbines they need to be manufactured in a factory out of metal and fiberglass and the machines needed to make these products require a lot of energy. So even if the product itselff (i.e. wind turbines) reduces carbon emissions, the manufacturing process is quite energy expensive.

    Let me give an example: the Prius (or any other electric car).
    The concept of this car is wonderful; battery power replaces gasoline and even a self-recharging mechanism built into the braking system. Great gas mileage, low emissions. Sounds like a win-win right? Well, when we break down the manufacturing that went into this car we find it is not nearly as environmentally friendly as we like to think. First off, each Prius battery contains 32 pounds of nickel, and annually Toyota produces 1,000 tons of nickel. This nickel is first mined in Canada (where the surround area has been declared an environmental disaster site), then shipped to Europe, then to China and finally Japan during the refining process. The cars are manufactured in Japan and shipped by tanker to the US. This entire process uses vast quantities of fossil fuels and steel and plastics. Finally, that high tech battery cannot be recycled easily and biodegrades in landfills into extremely toxic chemicals. So, even though the car itself might reduce emissions, the process it takes to obtain the car is not at all ecofriendly and probably offsets any benefits it produces.

    In a perfect world, all these processes would run on sustainable energy. I do not think it is likely that we will be able to have sustainable energy without using lots of fossil fuels to help provide energy that energy in some way, but maybe others have different views?

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