What if we discovered the cure to cancer but ran out of an ingredient for the drug? What if we engineered a ship that could travel the universe but ran out of fuel? What if . . . ? You get the point. How terrible it would be to know the solution to a problem but lack one essential component?
Well, that could be a possibility in the realm of renewable energy according to a recent article in NewScientist. The piece discusses the limited availability of two elements, iridium and platinum, used in the manufacturing of two renewable energy technologies, solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells; it also speaks to the ever-growing controversy of fuel versus food. There are some great (and not so great) comments posted to the article that make for good discussion.
I’ve discussed all three of these topics on green | rising before but have never talked about the possibility that developing renewable energy technology may be limited by mother nature. Is humankind really going to be stifled in its attempt to become sustainable because we are resource constrained? The irony!
Conservation, conservation, conservation. We’re not throwing away iridium and platinum like we are many other natural resources but the manufacturing of LCD TVs – the single largest iridium-consuming process – is a sad supplement to the manufacturing of solar technologies.
The lesson here is that we must head conservation in all of its forms. Even the most ardent supporters of renewable energy probably do not know that processes like the manufacturing of LCD TVs may prevent or retard the advent of a clean energy future. While I’m not judging this specific example it does highlight the fact that we must not let consumption thwart our efforts at a cleaner, greener tomorrow.