On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address to Congress, detailing his strategy for moving forward in the face of the current financial crisis. One of the president's main points was the need to pursue green energy initiatives.
So-called "greenwashing," that is, trying to sell the idea of environmental amicability, has of course found widespread acceptance in corporate and public America as evidenced by the ubiquity of recycling bins and Esurance ads. "Going green" is as popular as "going viral" these days. Unfortunately, green energy hasn't found nearly the acceptance that recycled paper enjoys.
There are debates and problems, of course. Democracy is built on debates and problems. Consider the case of windmills: sited correctly, windmills can generate thousands of kilowatts of electricity drawing on only a light breeze. In terms of efficiency and cleanliness, it doesn't get much better than that. The blades catch the wind, turn the turbines and create power. Presto!
Some people, though, are worried about the birds that might fly into them, or about the aesthetic appeal of aluminum blades spinning in the wind. These aren't legitimate concerns; means could be found to deter birds using the same methods already employed by airports. Similarly, aesthetic appeal in the face of communal progress should not even be considered a factor. Yet it is.
For the king of the "not in my backyard" syndrome, however, look no further than the nuclear power plant. Americans are afraid of nuclear power largely due to three factors: Chernobyl, media reporting and the presentation of nuclear power in pop culture.
These are also, of course, illegitimate concerns. Chernobyl melted down in 1986; we should be more afraid of cars still on the road from that year than a nuclear meltdown. The media, of course, is happy to prey on those fears, but we're an informed public, and we don't buy into fear mongering, right?
The fact is that nuclear plants are safe. They're very safe. When Chernobyl melted, the world didn't stand around and say, "let's build more of that;" better safety precautions have evolved. Nuclear waste? Nuclear plants are becoming more and more efficient; perhaps, eventually we'll have cold fusion. Most importantly, the energy output of fissionable material is, watt for watt, one of the most efficient means of energy production known to man. Who are we to say no to that?