What will safe, clean energy look like in future?

When the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station failed back in 1979, followed by the meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, North America balked at that technology for generating electricity.
For more than 30 years, there has been no added nuclear power capacity in North America.
European countries and developing ones continued to embrace that method of generating electricity. China, for instance, will add 28 new nuclear electrical generating plants in this decade alone to reduce smog from coal-fired plants and to clean up the environment.
Even the damming of rivers for hydroelectricity, which floods lands, causes silt build-up, and prevents the movement of fish, has environmentalists crying foul.
Should we stop generating hydroelectricity?
When environmentalists complained about the poor air quality generated by coal-fired thermal electrical generating plants, Ontario and other privately-held electrical utilities chose to close those plants and switch to natural gas.
Today, North America is awash in newly-discovered pockets of natural gas. The pockets are being accessed by deeper drill and hydro-fracturing shale to release the natural gas.
The new gas that is making its way into the mainstream of Canada and the United States has helped reduced heating costs of home owners, and made the creating of natural gas cogeneration of electricity again profitable.
Here in Northern Ontario, we are pride ourselves on using our forests and woodlands to create fuel for biomass electrical power generation. The boiler at Fort Frances has enabled AbitibiBowater to reduce its costs of manufacturing and made the mill more profitable, thus sustaining more jobs.
The whole world continues to watch the outcome of the failed oil well in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. No one anticipated the blowout, nor the failure of all the safety controls in the system when the oil rig caught fire and ended up sinking.
Drilling for oil under the ocean has been ongoing for decades, and only on one other occasion has a valve failed. Yet we now know that as we drill deeper looking for oil and gas, and technologies are being developed to extract those commodities, there are more risks to man and the environment.
Yet risk managers will tell everyone that regardless of how safely something is created or built, or used, there always will be some level of risk. And even if it is one chance in a billion, there will be a failure.
What level of risk can the world tolerate? If we had asked the average North American if there was any danger in ocean drilling for oil only three months ago, the answer would have been “no.”
Tens of thousands of oil wells in the oceans of the world are producing oil for home heating, for planes to fly, trains to run, trucks to roll, and cars to move about. A suitable, reliable replacement for the combustion engine has yet to appear.
A moratorium has been placed on underwater oil drilling in the United States, and calls are out for the Canadian government to place its own moratorium on new offshore drilling.
People now look at the tar sands as being less evil than ocean drilling although 18 months ago, the environmentalists were suggesting a moratorium be placed on tar sands development.
In Thunder Bay, there is a large outcry about the development of wind energy farms there. Yet wind turbines produce clean, renewable energy.
In other areas of North America, environmentalists are expressing concern with solar-power farms that capture the energy of the sun and put it into the grid for power.
What are our comfort levels for the environment? To what levels are we, as a nation, prepared to say “no” to energy development.
No system currently has favour with everyone.
What will our children’s children say of us who demanded more and more energy from more and more locations on the planet? What will clean, safe energy look like in half-a-century?

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