Global warming, air pollution, contaminated water, loss of habitat, acid rain, and the loss of rainforests all affect man and animals equally. The major difference is that man is totally responsible for all of the above, while animals pay the price. At the center of all this environmental destruction is energy. Although the United States represents 5% of the world’s population, we consume almost 50% of the energy.
Currently, we cannot meet our energy demands and are a nation that must import 50% of our oil to meet the needs of running our automobiles, heating our homes, and fueling our industries. We have hydroelectric power plants that dam rivers, wind power that kills birds, a few nuclear power plants and a slew of old and new fossil fuel burning power plants.
Scientists are working feverishly to develop new sources of clean energy that are environmentally sound and animal friendly. While some research looks promising, it will be a long time before any breakthroughs that will lessen the greenhouse effect, acid rain and the concentration of toxins in the food chain. Much work is being done in attempting to have better functioning fossil fuel power plants, however, most all of the technology is expensive and consumers now are being hurt in California by skyrocketing utility prices and brownouts. The handwriting is on the wall. We need to do something.
The number one danger to animals and ourselves is fossil fuel plants. Natural gas burns the cleanest, but like oil, is a limited resource and it has become very expensive. Oil, the lack of and the danger of transporting (ships), is a resource without a future. Currently our foreign policy is, and has to be, on the acquisition and availability of foreign oil. In effect, we are being held hostage and dictated to by oil producing nations.
Coal is plentiful, but clean burning anthracite coal is becoming scarce and harder to mine. High sulfur content soft coal is plentiful, but expensive to burn clean, and if not properly “scrubbed”, is a major cause of air pollution. Besides, entire mountains are being leveled to economically mine the coal, and this resultant loss of habitat, the death of animals and the damage to the water supply is horrendous and unacceptable.
Particularly tragic to wildlife is the concentration of heavy metals and toxins in the food chain and the sterilization of our lakes and streams with acid rain. In many areas it is advisable for fisherman not to eat freshwater fish because of their high mercury content, however the osprey and eagles continue to do so.
Nuclear power plants are the least damaging sources of energy we have today to animals and man. In the past there have been problems, but recent technology has made nuclear energy more acceptable. Standardization of nuclear plants is a must. The lessons of Three Mile Island have insured new safety measures and most people living near nuclear power plants feel much safer. No one in the United States has ever died because of a nuclear reactor. Currently there are three different approved construction designs for nuclear power plants waiting for a utility to build them.
Nuclear energy produces no carbon dioxide, no nitrous oxide and hence, no global warming, no acid rain and no toxins. Depending upon technology, and when built, nuclear power plants can and do add a few degrees of temperature to the cooling water which minimally impacts the environment. The major concern of nuclear power is nuclear waste. The technology to solve this problem is well documented, but the problem goes unresolved because of politics. “No one wants nuclear energy stored in their area and local politicians play on this fear.” The government has solved the problem of containers, transportation and storage facilities, now we need action. The problem of nuclear waste can easily be solved.
Nuclear power is used safely around the world, in our submarines and ships, and there is an almost inexhaustible supply. Until some other source of energy is discovered or utilized, nuclear energy is the best hope for animals. It prevents massive habitat destruction, cuts air pollution, conserves nonrenewable resources and . . . it will light up the West Coast.