TED Conversations

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 24 2013: I am currently taking a course on the Hanford nuclear site, and have become very skeptical on our future with nuclear energy. Nuclear sites around the world, including Hanford, have proven that nuclear energy waste is difficult to manage and contain, often times leaking from their storage units after several decades. However, some microbiologists are looking at specific microbes (specifically Shewanella sp.) that can digest toxic metals and convert them into non-toxic ones. A friend of mine at Whitman College is currently taking a class from Sara Belchik who is doing research on specific strains of Shewanella that were isolated near Hanford and have the ability to reduce iron oxides and uranium. If the world can advance technology to prevent major accidents like the nuclear meltdown in Japan, and if we can learn more about microbes to potentially assist in breaking down the waste we produce, I believe nuclear power will provide the most energy without taking up a lot of habitat area and affecting biodiversity. These are most likely long-term goals, so in the meantime I would look to advances in solar energy to make a push in the renewable energy market.

    Links:
    http://aem.asm.org/content/77/15/5521.full
    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29915669/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/microbes-digest-detoxify-dangerous-metals/#
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      Apr 24 2013: I really like this approach. Although waste leakage is a serious problem being able to identify microbes able to reduce this waste is paramount. There is this really good short video on Thorium reactors as an alternative to Nuclear fission.

      LFTRs in 5 minutes - Thorium Reactors
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK367T7h6ZY

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