Clean energy’s dirty secret
by Don Keayes
As you probably know already, we frogs are particularly susceptible to environmental changes. The quality of our air and water is important to us so we like to keep abreast of the … ahem … Green literature.
In fact, according to this University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar, in order to reduce the production of the naturally-occurring CO2 needed for my lillypad to grow a few solar panel manufacturers are pumping huge amounts of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) into the atmosphere.
Hexafluoroethane has a global warming potential that is 12,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is 100 percent manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000 years once released into the atmosphere. Nitrogen trifluoride is 17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and SF6, the most treacherous greenhouse gas, is over 23,000 times more threatening.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that these gases are now accumulating within the earth’s atmosphere at a rapid rate: concentrations of SF6 have been rising exponentially and a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters demonstrates how NF3 levels have been rising at a whopping 11 percent per year.
“If photovoltaic production grows, so will the associated side effects. Even worse, there’s no evidence that solar cells offset fossil fuel use in the American context.”
Instead Zehner advocates other conservation measures, the most expensive of which right now would become cost competitive long before today’s solar cell technologies. “If limiting CO2 is our goal, we might be better off directing our time and resources to those options first; solar cells seem a wasteful and pricey strategy,” he says.
I’d lend you my copy but it’s probably better you get your own at Green Illusions.