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The 'why' of renewable energies in America

ESSAYMartín Villegas Jordán

The concept of humanity is a contemporary idea that took shape just recently. Many say that it took place after the conference of Yalta in 1945[1]. In other words, this concept was beginning to be conceived by one of the three leaders that shaped today’s world, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the conference, the three big leaders of the world, who at the time were British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and U.S. President Roosevelt[2], came to an agreement (mostly encouraged by Roosevelt) that would eventually give birth to the United Nations. Now it’s vital to know that this intergovernmental organization is intricately composed of the idea of a global union.

Moreover, the concept of a global union, of the United Nations, embodies the idea of humanity as universal. It encompasses the idea of humanity as a composition of every existing nation. In short, humanity eventually becomes the nation for all human beings, a nation of nations. And this is where Mr. Roosevelt plays a relevant role when he said: “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people”[3].

It’s possible, then to say that the previous century was the time when global issues were given the attention that they deserved. For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) marks 407.62 parts per million of carbon dioxide of earth and 0.99 degrees Celsius for the temperature anomaly of 2016 (denoting that year as one of the sixteen warmest years since 2001)[4].

Besides, humanity faces dramatic gaps in temperature. Take a look, for instance, at Oymyakon, Russia, where the temperature is normally around negative fifty-four degrees Celsius[5]. Now, looking at the Sahara desert, it’s inhabitants face temperatures of fifty-nine degrees Celsius or more.

Moreover, climate change becomes a more pressing matter when looking at two reports of the NASA. On the first hand, the one titled “November of 2017 was the third warmest November on record” states: “The last three Novembers — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — are the three warmest in the entire modern record.”[6]. On the other hand, the one titled “Greenland melt speeds East Coast sea level rise” states the following: “the Greenland and Antarctic influence alone would account for an increase in the rate of sea level rise on the East Coast of 0.0016 to 0.0059 inches (0.04 to 0.15 millimeters) each year, varying by location. That’s equivalent to 7.8 inches (0.2 meters) of sea-level rise on the northern East Coast over the next century, and 2.5 feet (0.75 meters) in the south, though the estimates are quantitative and not an attempt at an actual projection”[7].

Still, having such a clear evidence of climate change, it is true that legislators choose to deny this, which actually ends up convincing people. This is evident, for example, when analyzing the politics of the current President of the U.S., Donald Trump. For instance, during his campaign (when addressing the mining community) he said: “If I take hairspray, and I spread it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you are telling me that affects the ozone layer. I say “no way folks” (…) that is like all of the rules and regulations you people have in mines”[8].

What is also true about this blind humanity is that the many pronunciations of the United States’ president have a strong pull towards decisions that countries in Mesoamerica and South America take. Take Colombia, for instance. Now, this country had banned the eradication of illicit cultivations of drugs by aspartame but president Trump has been insisting and pushing for this harmful way for the environment and for humans that can possibly live by the crops[9]. Furthermore, it can be said that pressure from the North American country has not been light in the rest of Latin America.

Summing up, it is clear that America is clearly in need of renewable energy sources no matter what the political discourse states. Specifically, America is in need of “those sources of energy obtained from natural means that are renewable and susceptible to indefinite use”[10]. Take, for instance, countries like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, which are called to be the future in the study of sustainability due to their “geographical and climatological conditions, which make Latin America one of the regions that pose high potential from renewable energy sources”[11]. Furthermore, these countries are pioneer in the ambits of wind, hydropower, and large-scale soy growing, which makes them subject to the advantages that the implementation of renewable energy poses. In fact, experts Emma Mendoza and Vadim Pérez at the University of Chile insist on these advantages being: (1) the potential for creating almost six times of what global consumption is today (2) the production being national (3) the de-centralized consumption, meaning that energy is consumed in the place where it is produced and there is no necessity to export (4) the hygiene of the obtained energy, meaning that there are no significantly harmful remnants (5) and the inversion in high tech industry[12].

In fact, in America there has been an exponential growth in the implementation of renewable energy projects since the implementation of the Paris 2015 accords on Climate Change. Such growth though, is directly proportional with the increments in federal or particular centralized companies with strong governmental support [13].

In Latin America the three pillars in the ambit of sustainability are the eolian industry, the hydroelectric industry, and the industry of the monocultures[14]. Of the countries previously mentioned, for example, Brazil and Mexico specialize in the eolian industry, Brazil also plays an important role in hydropower development, and Argentina leads the large scale soy growing. It is of vast importance though, to previously mention the fact that the development of renewable energies is not the only factor that is taken into account when analyzing the socio-scientific field of sustainable energies. Then, in addition to the plain development of these energies, the social movements that emerge in response to the expansion of these industries play a key role for the future of sustainable energies in the world.

It is interesting to look at each of the fields with important developments in America. Firstly, taking a close look at how the wind power is transformed in renewable energy and the toll that it has within a socio-economic sphere. Now, this type of energy is the least efficient between the three types analyzed in this paper because it has the least impact on the environment and on society. However, the two countries that contribute primarily are Brazil and Mexico, respectively, with a generation of 256 MW and 88 MW[15]. Mainly, the power generated in each country is based upon eolian parks built on the appropriate territories. For example, Brazil’s main park is found in the municipality of Osório and it includes three projects that sum a generation potential of 150 MW. Unfortunately, the social outcome of eolian implementation has been negative. Experts Mendoza and Pérez state that the probable origin for the social unrest is the government for ignoring the process of negotiation between enterprises and local habitants. Also, the clean energy enterprises are paying only 1.5% of the incomes to the landowners that put their terrains for the disposition of these enterprises. Besides, other social unrest is the co-ownership of most of the terrains, presenting more negotiation difficulties between enterprises and landowners.  In short, the main opponents (via judicial demands) in Mexico are: “la Union de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Itsmo” and “los centros de Derechos Humanos Topeyec y Gubiña”[16]. As if there was not enough opposition already, these denunciators even claim that some of the acts committed by the enterprises are unconstitutional. 

Secondly, it is important to look at hydroelectric power principally developed in Brazil because hydroelectricity is the principal source of electricity generation in Latin America. For example, Brazil’s hydroelectric power in 2006 accounted for 60% of the total of electricity generated. Furthermore, hydroelectricity can be developed under low costs of operation and high efficacy. It is also important to look at hydroelectric power in Brazil as a pioneer due to the first efforts of implementation that have been present in the country since 1970.

Thirdly, the large-scale soy production can also be considered as a renewable energy source.

 


[1] History.com Staff. “Yalta Conference.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/yalta-conference.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] “151 Inspiring Environmental Quotes.” Conserve Energy Future, 15 Apr. 2017, www.conserve-energy-future.com/inspiring-environmental-quotes.php.

[4] “Global Climate Change.” NASA, NASA, 2 June 2014, climate.nasa.gov/.

[5] “Oymyakon, Rusia Pronóstico Del Tiempo y Condiciones Meteorológicas - The Weather Channel.” The Weather Channel, 19 Jan. 2018, weather.com/es-ES/tiempo/hoy/l/63.46,142.77.

[6] “November 2017 Was the Third Warmest November on Record.” NASA, NASA, 18 Dec. 2017, climate.nasa.gov/news/2666/november-2017-was-the-third-warmest-november-on-record/.

[7] “Greenland Melt Speeds East Coast Sea Level Rise.” NASA, NASA, 13 Nov. 2017, climate.nasa.gov/news/2651/greenland-melt-speeds-east-coast-sea-level-rise/.

[8] mischegoss. “Donald Trump Talks Hairspray and Ozone.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 May 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU2p6YakNJg.

[9] Cosoy, Natalio. “Asombro En Colombia Por Amenaza De Donald Trump Ante Incremento De Cultivos De Coca - BBC Mundo.” BBC News, BBC, 14 Sept. 2017, www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-41275301.

[10] Mendoza, Emma and Pérez, Vadim. Energías renovables y movimientos sociales en América Latina. Instituto de Estudios Internacionales – Universidad de Chile. 2010.

[11] Ibidem.

[12] Ibidem.

[13] Ibidem.

[14] For more information of the forms of renewable energy consult: “Renewable Energy Explained.” Renewable Energy Sources - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy - Energy Information Administration, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 1 June 2017, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=renewable_home.

[15] MW means mega watts. For more information go to the following citation: -guide-

[16] Mendoza, Emma and Pérez, Vadim. Energías renovables y movimientos sociales en América Latina. Instituto de Estudios Internacionales – Universidad de Chile. 2010.

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