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Re: Fuel Cells and "green" energy

On Wed, 13 Jun 2001, RAUBER, JOEL wrote:

I"m curious, could you elaborate more on the environmental costs of
hydroelectric power. I've been mostly under the impression that its mostly
aesthetic (you ruin the hatch-hatchie gorge), or not as renewable as one
thinks, the reservoir silts up and prevents fish spawning. And then the
usual cost of running the power lines everywhere (true of most power
plants); and the impact of the immediate construction of the dam.

I'm not the expert, he's out of town doing measurments, but he
mentioned loss of biological habitats, not just fish migration. As you
also mention, a big concern is the sliting which affects a much larger
portion of the river system than just around the dam.

I'll quote from his respponse to the students:

" Much of the college^Òs new ^Ñgreen^Ò energy is derived from
hydroelectric power plants. Although hydropower plants are often touted as
nonpolluting, these dams have created a major impact on the environment.
According to current estimates, the United States has over 80,000 large
dams. The definition of a large dam does not even include the small
impoundments like our own Arboretum pond. Within the rivers of the U.S.,
only 2 percent of the length of these systems remain unaffected by humans.
Meanwhile, almost 19 percent of the length of all rivers in the U.S. is
underwater due to impoundments by dams. The loss of riparian vegetation
along the banks of rivers is one of the major reasons why so many species
are currently facing extinction. One of the major environmental movements
sweeping the country is based on the drive to remove dams whenever
In fact, even the Sierra Club owes part of its existence to the fight
against dams. One of the Sierra Club^Òs first actions was a failed attempt
try to prevent the construction of Hetch Hetchy Dam in CA"

The point of the student's position is that hydroelectric power is
renewable, non-polluting, and with minimal impact. We were trying to
point out that the situation is much cloudier than that; especially when
you pay 20% more!

Mike Monce
Connecticut College