Clean energy, a term used to describe clean technologies like wind and solar, is often touted as the new clean energy, while the dirty energy in the fossil fuel sector, like oil, is largely ignored by most.
But there are two big questions to ask here: how can cleaner energy be created and why does that matter?
And with clean energy increasingly the focus of the federal government, how do we keep it safe and efficient?
“We’re not going to be able to have clean energy forever,” said Chris Leavitt, executive director of Clean Energy America, an advocacy group.
“It’s going to have to be a long time before clean energy is as prevalent and efficient as we would like.”
The answer is more research, and a better understanding of the technologies, says Dr. Brian Kastel, director of the Department of Energy’s Laboratory for Clean Energy.
He also pointed to the need for a long-term, integrated approach to clean energy that will not only keep our lights on, but also our air and water clean.
“You have to think of it as a mix of both clean energy and clean technologies,” he said.
“Clean energy is going to become more efficient as it is used in a larger amount of places.”
One of the main challenges in trying to create cleaner energy is that most of the existing energy sources don’t have a lot of energy efficiency, according to Kastle.
That is, the more energy that is used, the less energy it produces.
That means that a typical electric vehicle (EV) produces more energy than a typical house, and it also has a higher price tag, which makes it more expensive to run.
The average household vehicle produces only 3.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year, according the Energy Information Administration.
That’s about half of what a typical household car produces, and the average home uses 10 kWh.
Even with the efficiency of the EV, the average American car uses about 20% of its energy to run the motor, while an EV requires nearly 50% of the energy to power the interior.
“The reason we’re not doing much of anything about it is because we don’t think about it enough,” said Leavitz.
“We just do it.”
The first thing to consider when creating a cleaner energy portfolio is how much energy the vehicle or car can produce, which can vary depending on the size of the vehicle.
That can be determined by calculating the energy output from a combination of the engine and batteries.
“That’s really the best way to get an idea of how much the energy is actually coming from,” said Kastell.
“But if you just start with a single power source, it’s not that useful.”
The other way to determine the energy use of a vehicle is to look at the vehicle’s emissions.
A car with a higher amount of energy per mile driven (EV per mile) is going for cleaner energy, and that’s because it emits less pollution, said Kestel.
However, cars with higher emissions tend to have a smaller amount of electricity used in their engines and batteries compared to EVs.
This means that the amount of pollution a vehicle emits is also more important.
“So if you want to know how much power your car is producing, you have to know its emissions,” he added.
“If you want the efficiency, you also have to look for the emissions.
So it’s very important to know the difference.”
Leavit also pointed out that an electric vehicle emits less carbon dioxide than an average car.
“There’s a big difference between a low-emission vehicle and a high-emissions vehicle,” he explained.
“Because a low emission vehicle is not that efficient, it is more likely to be driven on roads where the road surface is not smooth enough for the wind to carry the wind.
So you get more energy out of a high emission vehicle.”
One way to measure this is the CO2 emission of the fuel, which is the amount emitted per mile.
“A good way to do this is to calculate the power output per mile that the vehicle can produce,” said Zecharia, who also works with the Clean Energy Center at Stanford University.
“And then that number is going out to the highway, and you can measure the emissions that the highway emits.”
A lot of EVs are on the road today that emit zero emissions per mile, because they are low- and mid-emitting electric vehicles.
These low- or mid-methanol vehicles are the ones that most Americans buy, so they are the most likely to meet the Clean Air Act requirements for zero emissions.
The second question that Leavits and Kastels will have to answer is why do we care about the environment when it comes to clean technology?
It’s not just about clean energy.
Leavites point to the fact that our roads are not paved, so the air we breathe is also dirty