Dirty Electricity

There is a capitalist myth gaining currency that electricity is “clean energy.” When we are sucking the watts out of sockets or batteries it is clean enough of course, no columns of yellowy grey smoke rising from tall chimneys, no nasty oily smell as of exhaust fumes from internal combustion engines.

That might seem to confirm the claims of commercial operations promoting the virtues of the electric car or electrical home heating systems but think again. Electricity is not a clean fuel, most of the electric power used for domestic and industrial purposes is generated by burning coal, oil or gas. Power stations are the biggest emitters of CO2 and NO2, running 24/7, pumping these pollutant gases into the atmosphere.

Plus your Prius into the main supply and you can feel virtuous, the generating plant that produced the electricity flowing into your batteries is well away from town so out of sight, out of mind. But the power station is not the only source of pollution drivers of electric cars should be aware of the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of Nickel Metal – Hydride (NiMH) batteries. both are absolutely filthy processes. Lithium – Ion batteries would be a better option but for the scarcity of lithium and the abundance of people who want to own cars.

Still, so long as the batteries are not manufactured in our back yard the public relations peoples’ job in persuading us to scrap our perfectly good conventional cars and buy new hybrids or electric cars. We can continue to be concerned without actually changing our lifestyles.

Clean generation systems are the answer but what does The Great Conspiracy come up with? Carbon Capture Systems. Even if the technology works it only succeeds in moving the problem out of sight.

Nuclear power from fission offers CO2 free electricity but pollutes in other ways. So much for electricity being a clean fuel. It is time we stopped letting the media and the evangelists for free market solutions divert attention from the grim realities. As things stand we have no reliable and environmentally friendly way of providing the electricity modern societies need. And the effing Government are pratting about with windmills.

Nuclear fusion would seem to provide and answer but research has not progressed much in the last fifty years.

We will only have abundant clean energy when we are prepared to elect Governments that are not slaves to big business and big finance, that will not prioritise the profit factor but sink public money and human resources into developing power generation technologies that utilise genuinely reliable and sustainable sources, the Sun, tides, river flow.

5 thoughts on “Dirty Electricity

  1. Offshore wind-farms have great potential and shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as you do. Money needs pumping into research into all the “alternative” energies and ASAP.



    1. They were skipped over because this blog has dealt with them in the past. Offshore wind is no more reliable than onshore wind, being more prone to being shut down because of excessively high winds.
      Also the 300 foot plus towers used to house decent sized generators need an enormous block of concrete to support them. These would not only destroy the sea bed environment, they would disrupt envionmentally important marine currents and tidal flows.
      On top of that the best sites for offshore windfarms are often in shipping lanes or important inshore fishing grounds.

      The enthusiasm for wind is a case of bikeshed syndrome. Windmills seem simple,politicians think they understand wind power but know do not understand wave, tide, run of river and solar generation schemes. Also wind power, though it does not work is very visible. Thus it appeals to the short termism of political and business interests.

      Sorry but were we to rely on wind for electricity in a generation we would be living in caves, wrapping ourselves in animal skins and eating dung for our dinner to paraphrase Blackadder 😀

      But wave power, though more complex technically and as yet less developed, does have real potential. They are using it in Portugal – a British system that we have lost to foreign interests again because the government has been playing windmills.

      MichaelStMark is another local blogger less than impressed with the technology.


      1. My information on the efficacy of offshore windfarms differs to yours then. But they would of course be merely one plank of the alternative energy raft. We can’t afford to close off any potential avenues just yet.



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