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Clean energy is the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. A broader interpretation may allow inclusion of fossil fuels as transitional sources while technology develops, as long as new sources are developed for future generations to use. A narrower interpretation includes only energy sources which are not expected to be depleted in a time frame relevant to the human race, which can potentially also include nuclear power if it is utilized differently from the current manner.

Clean energy sources are most often regarded as including all renewable sources, such as biofuels, solar power, wind power, wave power, geothermal power and tidal power. It usually also includes technologies that improve energy efficiency. Conventional fission power is sometimes referred to as sustainable, but this is controversial politically due to concerns about peak uranium, radioactive waste disposal and the risks of disaster due to accident, terrorism, or natural disaster.

Clean energy includes natural energetic processes that can be harnessed with little pollution. Anaerobic digestion, geothermal power, wind power, small-scale hydropower, solar energy, biomass power, tidal power, and wave power fall under such a category. Some definitions may also include power derived from the incineration of waste.

Some people, including George Monbiot and James Lovelock have specifically classified nuclear power as green energy. Others, including Greenpeace disagree, claiming that the problems associated with radioactive waste and the risk of nuclear accidents (such as the Chernobyl disaster) pose an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity.

No power source is entirely impact-free. All energy sources require energy and give rise to some degree of pollution from manufacture of the technology. The world demand for energy is rapidly increasing. We need energy to warm our homes, to cook our meals, to travel and communicate, and to power our factories. The amount of energy available to us determines not only our standard of living, but also how long we live. Detailed statistics from many counties show that in countries where the available energy is 0.15 tons of coal equivalent per person per year the average life expectancy is about forty years, whereas countries in Europe and America where the available energy is a hundred times greater have an average life expectancy of about seventy-five years. It is well to remember that a shortage of energy is a minor inconvenience to us, but for people in poorer countries it is a matter of life and death.

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