One of the big new energy alternatives is fracking. The name actually refers to the technique which is used to extract some oil and mainly gas from underground. These are then used to fuel power stations. The whole industry has been hugely criticised by members of the public.
As a green solution, fracking is obviously not the perfect solution. Although gas has less emissions than coal when it is burned, if any escapes into the air it can do immediate damage to the ozone layer. This is something which is highly controlled though and is unlikely to be a huge problem. Many people feel that it is not a good enough step towards clean energy and think that money should be being spent on greener solutions than this.
There are also those people who are worried about the risks of fracking on the local environment. There a have been cases in the US which have worried many people. Legislation there does not permit companies that are fracking to publicise what chemicals they are using underground to extract the gas. As these chemicals can include acid and other poisons this is a cause for concern, particularly if the local water supply is breached by the drilling and the chemicals leach into it. This has been a big problem in the US as there is no map of where the old mines and wells are underground and so it makes the drilling process difficult and prone to errors. IN the UK this would not be a problem as things are well mapped out. There are also guidelines and legislations with regards to the chemicals that can be used and they have to be made public. Another case for concern is earthquakes. Drilling under the ground in the manner that fracking does, will cause earth tremors. However, if things are properly controlled and they are not near to built up errors it may not be a problem. Obviously the long term effects cannot be easily measured.
One big advantage of fracking for the UK is energy security. We will be able to produce our own energy which means that we will not have to rely on other countries for it. This should help to keep prices down but also means that if a supply is interrupted form another country then it will not have such a devastating effect. Fracking is also deemed to be cheaper than green alternatives and many people just cannot afford to pay more for their energy.
It is worth trying to ignore all the protests and highly emotive arguments around fracking and look at the facts for yourself. If you feel we should be moving towards completely green solutions, then obviously this is not the best one. However, it does move away from dirtier coal and oil and could be considered to be a step in the right direction. However, if it does go ahead in the UK, it would need to be very carefully monitored to make sure that safety always comes first.
You may be wondering what you can do personally to help the energy problem. You may feel that you have very little influence, but actually there are a number of things that you can do which could have quite an impact, particularly on you and your family’s carbon footprint.
There are energy companies that only invest in green energy. You will have to pay more for your gas and electric bills if you sign up to one of these, but you will know that the money that you are paying will be invested into green energy. If you check out the websites of the energy suppliers, they will supply a breakdown of where their energy comes from so that you can make a choice. You may decide to go with one that is slightly cheaper but has a larger percentage of green energy.
Producing your own energy could help as well. You may be able to install a ground source heat pump, windmill or solar panels in order to produce some of your own energy. This can be expensive and you will need to be prepared to invest a significant sum of money into a project like this. There will be savings in the amount of energy that you have to pay for and you may be able to claim a Feed in Tariff from your energy supplier as well to help cover the costs. It could work out well as an investment, if you have the capital to put down in the first place. Of course, you also need to own a house and/or land in order to do this and you may need to get planning permission. In the UK some companies still fit solar panels for free. They will take the Feed in Tariff but you can not only benefit from savings on your electricity bill but also know that you are helping to produce some green energy. These companies are becoming less common though so if you want to do this you may need to get started as soon as possible.
You can also help by using energy saving products. This can be anything from light bulbs to white goods. When you need to replace any items, look into whether they are energy saving or not. Often energy saving light bulbs are more expensive but they are much efficient with regards to the energy they use and last a lot longer so in lifetime cost they will work out very much cheaper in the long term.
Another way to help the energy problem is to use less. Make sure that you do not put lights on unnecessarily and leave them on when you leave the room. Do not leave televisions and computers running overnight and use your electrical items sparingly. Do not put on washing machines and dishwashers unless they are full and only run a tumble dryer if you cannot get the clothing dry another way. You could also consider things like using solar torches, calculators, phone chargers etc which will reduce the energy that you use.
So even if you cannot afford to switch to a green energy supplier or produce your own energy you can still do your bit by trying to reduce energy use and buying more energy efficient appliances.