Green Energy Guide

A Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Electricity

Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Green Energy Guide

A Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Electricity

Choosing Green Energy: A Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Electricity

windmills The production of electricity causes more damage to the environment than any other single human activity. Electricity production is now the largest single use of energy in the United States. Electricity generation is responsible for 69 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 32 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions that foul the air and cause acid rain. Electricity use accounts for 35 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, the key culprit in global climate change. It is responsible for millions of miles of rivers and streams being disrupted by dams, hundreds of tons of nuclear waste that must find a permanent home somewhere, and thousands of tons of air pollutants that are a major cause of respiratory problems.

With the deregulation of the electricity industry and the startup of "green electricity" suppliers, many consumers can now vote with their dollars for a more sustainable electricity industry and a more sustainable future. But to make an informed decision, you need to know about the different sources of electricity available and how each one affects a range of environmental issues. This consumer's guide puts the power to decide in your hands.

It's In Your Hands

This section provides key background material on the electricity industry.

Energy Sources and Environmental Impacts

These sections review the different sources of electricity, identify criteria sources must meet to be sustainable, and examine how well each source meets the criteria.

The Bottom Line

This section rates each source on its overall sustainability.

Armed with this information, you can examine the power sources of your local utility to see how sustainable your electricty is - or even better, if your state allows you to choose your electricity supplier, to compare utilities to decide which is "greenest." Your decision is important. Although we have yet to find the perfect source of electricity - one that is truly sustainable by all criteria -- we can not afford to delay converting to sources that are at least more sustainable. The consequences of our current path are too dire.

Key Issues: