Since we can’t stop using energy, it’s necessary to use as clean a form of energy as economically and sustainably possible. I’ve already mentioned power sources with potential and likened them to pop stars in the press. Here’s a few more alternatives...
A pop star with country roots but a less wholesome trajectory is Miley Cyrus. With Dolly Parton as her godmother and Billy Ray Cyrus as her father, her favor with farmers runs deep. Though she had a promising start as a Disney starlet, Cyrus quickly tried to shed her innocent and role-model-worthy appearance with such performances as “Party in the USA,” “Can’t Be Tamed,” and recently “We Can’t Stop.” Concerns about her increasingly provocative behavior can be likened to the increasingly corrosive nature of biofuels, such as corn ethanol.
Biofuels were believed to be a saving grace to relieve pain at the pump and move America away from emitting harmful pollutants with every gas-guzzling mile. However, they’ve been receiving criticism from industries from fast food to motorcycles. Since the EPA has proposed increasing the volume requirements for renewable fuel and therefore increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%, many have come out against it. The reasons against this so-called “blend wall” are clear: Ethanol at high ratios is bad for cars and may even cause damage to engines. Corn ethanol also increases corn prices — a boon for Iowa, but a boondoggle for America. Though ethanol was promising as a transportation fuel when we believed it would be low-impact for both cars and the economy, it is quickly becoming a corrosive alternative and a divisive issue.
This is not to say that all biofuels are bad or that all Disney-promoted stars are destined to pose nude in Vogue. Selena Gomez, for example, has had a fairly successful career with little incident. Rather than the jolting transition into adulthood that Cyrus displayed in her “pole dancing” scandal, Gomez has been satisfied with a younger audience and put off such provocative songs as “Come & Get It” until she was 20. Her relationship with Justin Bieber brought her more into the spotlight and away from such underwear models that plagued Cyrus’s name in the tabloids.
Likewise, biodiesel is finding greater success than corn ethanol and has been called “a premium product, because … it is nearly identical to petroleum-based diesel and can ship by pipeline.” Such diesel is produced from animal fat, cooking oil, and corn oil, often through processes taking used oil and grease from the food industry and recycling it into fuel. Rather than adding costs to industries, biodiesel can be made from waste products. Gomez and biodiesels are both more palatable products than Cyrus or ethanol.
Demi Lovato is another former Disney star who’s become an accomplished artist. Her vocal talents have been compared to the likes of Kelly Clarkson, and her struggles have led her to become an advocate and role model for overcoming eating problems and depression. Wind power has faced similar comparisons to solar energy for its renewable though sometimes unreliable nature. There is also controversy about whether its appearance constitutes an eyesore or mechanical beauty. Wind energy has been criticized for unfair favoritism and support from the government, but it still has enormous potential on federally-owned lands and even offshore.
Of course, no list of pop stars would be complete without a mention of the queen of pop, Madonna. Since her emergence in the 1980s, Madonna has been simultaneously hailed as a hero of a new brand of feminism and denigrated as an over-sexualized bimbo. Her ability to constantly change her image is actually a feature of her popularity as she has constantly and consistently pushed boundaries for female pop.
This dynamic nature is also a hallmark of nuclear energy, with its radioactive risks and byproducts. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly the most powerful and destructive energy we can ever hope to harness. Despite its byproducts, it is considered a form of renewable energy because of its low carbon emissions. However, just as Madonna raises concern with feminists and conservatives alike for the sexual content of her performances, environmental concerns remain about radioactive waste and the possibility of weapons capabilities. Despite these concerns, the prolific and powerful nature of Madonna and nuclear energy cannot be denied.
It’s apparent that there are a bevy of alternatives to hydrocarbons with plenty of pros and cons for each. If we truly want to move towards a clean energy future, there’s nothing stopping us from taking the first step away from fossil fuels and saying “no” to false substitutes like natural gas.
This post originally appeared on PolicyInterns.