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: While solar, wind, and tidal energy are extremely efficient, they're not as dependable as immediately obtainable sources of energy. While fossil fuels are a current primary source of energy, I believe hydrogen can be a valid future source. I talked about this in my 2nd convo-starter in my discussion of hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe, consisting of 75% of all mass. A hydrogen fuel cell runs on isolated hydrogen, kept on a metal substance to prevent it from escaping, and combines it with atmospheric oxygen to form water and electrical energy. Because no CO2 is produced, I assume this will not have a negative environmental impact on biodiversity and atmospheric CO2 levels. While this isn't the most rapid chemical reaction, there are significant catalysts (platinum in particular) that can work to help the reaction along. This brings me to why these fuel cells may not be realistic yet. Hydrogen fuel cells are expensive, modern car manufacturers spend roughly 1 million to create a functioning car. Additionally, these fuel cells are very delicate, and only work under optimal conditions (temperature, pressure, etc). The last issue is that hydrogen isn't easy to isolate, and readily escapes; so collecting and containing hydrogen requires more advances in technology. Despite all this, I think hydrogen fueled cells have a potential future in our growing economy, not just in cars but for many other products.
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      Apr 24 2013: I also like the idea of using something so abundant as hydrogen to meet our energy demands. Currently it needs much research and development however, deems promising in the future. I personally believe that we should go nuclear, Thorium in particular, until a more efficient means of utilizing hydrogen as a primary energy source becomes a reality. Switching away from fossil fuels as rapidly as possible will help curb global climate increase, saving as many species and biomes as possible. The biggest issue currently is transitioning out of fossil fuels... a relationship our current lifestyles cannot live without. Only through a successful transition between primary energy sources will we even begin to curb the damage we have inflicted.

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