About 150 world leaders and their high-level delegations are meeting in Paris for a 11–day climate change summit which most environmental analysts believe is a make-or-break conference where the world’s 195 countries will need to go beyond talk and take binding decisions that will be implemented with dedication to save Mother Nature.
Two of the most important decisions will be measures to reduce the rising temperature to a maximum of 2˚Celsius and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a substantial level. All countries including Sri Lanka, which is being represented by President Maithripala Sirisena, will need to use their creative and imaginative talents to find renewable sources of energy instead of fossil fuels or coal power.
According to analysts, the nature of what constitutes an alternative or renewable energy source has changed considerably over time. Today, because of the variety of energy choices and differing goals of their advocates, defining some energy types as alternative is somewhat controversial.
In a general sense, alternative energy is that which is produced or recovered without the undesirable consequences inherent in fossil fuels or coal power use, particularly high carbon dioxide emissions also known as greenhouse gas. Historians of economies have examined the key transitions to alternative energies and regard the transitions as pivotal in bringing about significant economic change. Prior to the shift to an alternative energy, supplies of the dominant energy type became erratic, accompanied by rapid increases in energy prices.
Among the alternative sources of energy are hydro electricity which gets energy from rain water. Nuclear energy uses nuclear fission to release energy in a storage. Wind energy is the generation of electricity from the wind. Solar energy is the use of sunlight. Light can be changed into thermal heat energy and electric energy. Geothermal energy is the use of the earth’s internal heat to boil water for heating buildings or generating electricity. Biofuel and Ethanol are plant-derived gasoline substitutes for powering vehicles. Hydrogen can serve as a means of delivering energy produced by various technologies. Last month a leading Japanese vehicle manufacturer displayed at the Tokyo motor show some 200 “green” cars powered by hydrogen.
Commercial fuel synthesis companies also suggest they can produce synthetic fuels for less than petroleum fuels when oil costs more than $55 a barrel. Renewable methanol is a fuel produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide by catalytic hydrogenation where the hydrogen has been obtained for water electrolysis. It can be blended into transportation fuel or processed as a chemical feedstock. The George Olah carbon dioxide recycling plant operated by Carbon Recycling International at Grindavik in Iceland has been producing 2 million litres of methanol transportation fuel a year from flue exhaust of the Svartsengi Power Station since 2011.
Algae fuel is a biofuel which is derived from algae. During photosynthesis, algae and other photosynthetic organisms capture carbon dioxide and sunlight and convert them into oxygen and biomass. The benefits of algal biofuel are that it can be produced industrially, thereby obviating the use of arable land and food crops such as soy, palm, and canola, and that it has a high oil yield as compared to other sources of biofuel. Sri Lanka with a high literacy rate and highly skilled human resources to make the full use of the marvels of modern technology needs to look at these and other renewable, eco-friendly and energy sources individually, all people of goodwill also need to cooperate in this mission to save mother nature by using less fresh water electricity and fossil fuels. We all need to measure our carbon footprints in the awareness that whatever we do could be like the little drops of water and the little grains of sand that make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.