clean versus green

There is some interesting terminology being flung around when it comes to electrical generation these days. Proponents of hydro power, that is electricity generated by having moving water turn a turbine, often describe it as green.

There is some interesting terminology being flung around when it comes to electrical generation these days.

Proponents of hydro power, that is electricity generated by having moving water turn a turbine, often describe it as green.

Green is used in the sense it is environmentally friendly and good for the plants, fishes, animals and even the very air we all breathe.

Using green to define any and all hydro projects is not accurate.

If a valley is to be flooded to create a water reservoir to ensure adequate liquid to turn the turbines, it is not green.

If fish-spawning riverbeds are destroyed due to interrupted water flows, it is not green.

In both cases the electricity generated could potentially be better, from an environmental perspective, than the alternative of burning fossil fuels to create the equivalent amount of electrical energy.

When burnt fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas release greenhouse gases which contribute towards human induced climate change.

Hydro power does produce less greenhouse gases compared with fossil fuels.

Thus it can be considered cleaner.

The jury is still out whether it is greener.

It all depends on each individual hydro project and the valley and fish that are affected by each project tend not to vocalize their verdicts.

While we are on the subject of oil, coal and natural gas, it is disturbing to see how language is used around these fossil fuels.

The major operators in oil and natural gas are referred to as ‘big oil’.

But is usually used in the sense that a bully is big, and forces an individual to do whatever the bully wants.

Sometimes the bully will ask nicely, sometimes they will not, but the end result is that the bully gets what it wants.

Those who are familiar with how some of the major pipeline operators interact with local governments when it comes to discussing natural gas pipelines across the North will no doubt be able to relate.

The biggest verbal scam going in the big oil world is the term natural gas.

The only thing natural about it is that it is not human made.

By using the term natural it implies that this form of energy consists of organic food, music festivals and a good dose of yoga.

The environmental damage gas exploration, extraction, processing and combusting does to the planet makes one realize the term natural is about the most wildly inappropriate name imaginable.

In it its defence natural gas does produce less greenhouse gases when burnt as fuel, compared with coal and oil.

But it still does produce greenhouse gases.

Word usage in the environmental field is full of subtleties.

The Yukon government actually has a department of assessment and abandoned mines.

An abandoned mine, sometimes known as an orphaned mine, conjures up images of a puppy left by the side of the road.

Or perhaps it is some young child who has to make their own way in the world because the parents have met an unfortunate demise.

No, the mine was not left by the side of the highway, nor did the instigator of the mine pass away.

Instead the corporate owners decided to abandon their offspring and not fulfil societal, environmental and even legal obligations to clean up the mess they made.

This means taxpayers have to pay for the cleanup, and the environment suffers until a government department can step in do the correct remediation to the mine in question.

But abandoned mine does conjure up images of a puppy by the side of the road.

And natural gas does make one think of music festivals and healthy food.

Even clean power sounds like it’s good for the planet.

But all these terms are words hiding the fact that none of them are green.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read