I appreciate that "alternative energy" is common US usage, compared to the UK say, where "renewable energy" is more common; and that the predominant language of the SE sites is US English.

But I'd like to nominate "renewable-energy" to be the primary tag, with "alternative-energy" as a secondary synonym, for the following reason:

As Wikipedia says (not because I consider Wikipedia a reliable source, but because in this case, I think it's right, and it says it quite well):

Alternative energy is an umbrella term that refers to any source of usable energy intended to replace fuel sources without the undesired consequences of the replaced fuels.

The term "alternative" presupposes a set of undesirable energy technologies against which "alternative energies" are contrasted. As such, the list of energy technologies excluded is an indicator of which problems the alternative technologies are intended to address. Controversies regarding dominant sources of energy and their alternatives have a long history. The nature of what was regarded alternative energy sources has changed considerably over time, and today, because of the variety of energy choices and differing goals of their advocates, defining some energy types as "alternative" is highly controversial.

In contrast, "renewable energy" is reasonably well-defined, constant over time, and its definition is, relative to "alternative energy", less controversial. So, it's clearer, more descriptive, and is less sensitive to the passage of time and changes in context.

I didn't know whether it's good etiquette here just to go ahead and create the tag and then discuss, or raise it here first. I've gone for the latter.

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    $\begingroup$ I think it is a good idea... Anyway we'll wait a bit for more feedback. $\endgroup$ – user68 Jul 12 '11 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Huh, since when is "alternative energy" the common US usage? When I lived in the US (up until 2 years ago), "renewable energy" was the norm. I wonder if "alternative" is just some sort of new political weasel word? In anycase, I support this proposal. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 12 '11 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie Wong - fair question; I 'm just basing it on what I see, from afar, of US media; so I could easily be wrong about "alternative energy" being common US usage. Anyway, glad to have your support. $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Jul 12 '11 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ Coming from another American, I've definitely heard both terms enough to consider them in common usage in the US. I'd agree with this change. (By the way, re: etiquette, it never hurts to raise the issue on meta, although you're also free to just propose a tag synonym if you have enough rep.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 12 '11 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ ok, with a rush of blood to the head, and support from two mods here, I've gone ahead and created the renewable-energy tag. I don't have the rep to propose that alternative-energy be a synonym for it, though $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Jul 12 '11 at 15:31

I merged the tags and created the synonym.


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