13. Protecting the environment
Renewable energy sources are not only climate-friendly, but also tangibly protect the environment in terms of habitat preservation. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energies prevent the destruction of natural areas because - in operation - they do not emit greenhouse gases.
From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels.
For the exploitation of lignite and coal deposits in opencast mining, entire landscapes and even hilltops are removed, which has serious consequences for ecosystems. The removal of layers of soil irreparably damages habitats for animals and plants and lowers the ground water level, which in turn has further impacts on the surrounding environment. In addition, opencast mining produces health-damaging particulate matter.
Oil production often entails the release of large quantities of pollutants into the environment, not only in the case of major disasters such as the sinking of an oil tanker or the disastrous Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
New mining methods such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of natural gas also take a serious toll on the environment, as a variety of chemicals are used.
By contrast, the use of renewable energy sources, such as water, biomass, wind, geothermal and solar energy, does not inflict irreparable damage on the environment. In 2012, more than 40 million tons of lignite and hard coal, more than 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas and more than 8 billion liters of fossil oils and fuels were replaced with the use of renewable energies.