The Hidden Price of Going Green

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My interest in renewable energy is a selfish one. I want to be able to generate my own electricity, heat my water and keep my home warm in the winter and cool in the summer while keeping as much of my money in my own pocket.

Going "green" has a cost implication. No matter how environmentalists, lobbyist and other vested interests try to sugar coat the pill, it all comes down to money. I want to see a return on my investment.

There are hard questions to be asked such as:

- What is its initial cost?
- What are the maintenance costs?
- How long will it take before I see a return on my investment?
- What are the environmental costs involved?
- What are the human costs involved?

I believe that it is important to see and quantify, both the positive and negative effects of renewable energy.

The costs in money terms are easily quantifiable. Numbers are impersonal. They remove the emotions from the equation. However, it is well known that while the numbers may tell us one thing, one should proceed with caution as they can be skewed by government policies including subsidies, tax rebates and hidden taxes such as import duties to make certain products less competitive than those pushed by the lobbies.

Whatever your views on the matter, as I've stated before, I think its important to weigh all the evidence before barging forward in the name of 'green'!

We really need to have a frank and honest discussion on the true environmental impact of some of the renewable energy products. The cultivation of bio diesel crops, for instance, has had direct and indirect environmental consequences through the substantial deforestation of the jungle in Brazil and Indonesia and the subsequent loss of the bio diversity in those areas.

While soybeans, like corn, had some great potential for fuel however people are starting to notice the direct negative impact of using food crops for something other than food. Consider spiraling food prices and the food riots in various parts of the world about a year ago.

Apart from the above consider the human cost where in four separated cases more than 1,700 sugar cane workers were rescued from forced labor and slavery conditions in Brazil. I really wonder whether these are isolated cases or the tip of the iceberg. Or are they merely, in the lexicon of war, "collateral damage" of the environmentalist cause.

Let us not delude ourselves, there are some rather unpleasant truths behind a number of products together with the companies and the politics behind them.

I am not a conspiracy theorists but having lived in various parts of the world I know that most people in the west don't really give a damn about others in far off places, working for a pittance or as slaves, just as long as their standard of living is not affected.

In spite of the above I still believe that there is a future in renewable energy solutions. However, I believe that must add a degree of moral values in the mix and sanction companies that devastate the environment and enslave others.

I don't believe that government subsidized ventures, such as these massive wind farms (which are from "green"), are the answer as these have a way of skewing and often nullifying any economic benefits to the general population at large. Government subsidized programs often mean that those close to the politicians normally take the gravy leaving only a few crumbs to the rest of us.

What I believe in is the micro-generation of home energy generation, with each home producing more than enough electricity for its need.

Think about it! Imagine having your own home power generating plant producing enough electricity for your home and to power your own electric car. You could even produce some extra power to light up some of the street lights in your neighborhood. This would indeed be a "green solution" as they would reduce the need for electricity pylons and power lines as well as that of petrol and diesel.


Alain Prudhomme writes about the issues surrounding the micro-generation of renewable energy for homes as well as on the contentious and controversial issues surrounding global warming and climate change. You can find more resources at

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