Power – Cheap, Easy, and Hidden

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

We all want power. Today, our lives depend heavily on power. Try going a day without using it. We want it cheap and easy, but we’d rather not know its dirty little secrets.

For many decades, coal ruled as the energy source of choice for powering up the power plants across the nation. Thomas Edison started it all in New Jersey in 1906. Coal was plentiful and virtually free. Who cared that the process of bringing it up out of the earth was deadly? Who knew the emissions from the coal-powered plants were killing our atmosphere with carbon dioxide emissions? We couldn’t see it; but we could see to read more clearly at night. Coal continued as the cheapest way to bring light to our lives up until the past few years, despite the cost in human lives to do so.

Nuclear energy took a hit with the Three Mile Island mess and Chernobyl in Russia. But in the past decade a renaissance of sorts began taking place in the minds of folks who wondered if nuclear really wasn’t safer than we thought. Then with the meltdown in Japan after the tsunami, that renaissance almost screeched to a halt. It took something else to completely hurl it off the tracks: the cost of natural gas.

Natural gas prices are at their lowest in a decade, even cheaper than coal. But how much do we know about the methods used to bring that stuff up out of the ground? Because it’s cheap and profitable, fracking continues. However, a few weeks ago the Sierra Club reversed its position on supporting the drilling of natural gas as a safe alternative for energy. What impact that will have is uncertain because we don’t want to be inconvenienced by not being able to power up our computers or run our electric lawn mower.

The EPA has brought forth a proposal to limit emissions from electrical generations up to no more than 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide for every megawatt produced. Current coal plants, which will not be effected by this proposal should it become law, produce 1,800 lbs. per megawatt. Natural gas-fired power plants can meet this limit.

Let’s just all take a moment and breath while we can. Power from oil, natural gas, and coal provide us with the energy to fuel 90 percent of our horsepower. It does it for us behind the scenes quietly and relatively cheaply. And until human lives are lost, we don’t even think about it. Then we’re outraged as we watch CNN on our big screen TVs as the air conditioner keeps us cool.

According to Robert Bryce in Power Hungry – The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, renewable energy is just not up to the challenge of giving us the power we demand.

And the more I read, the less I believe renewable energy will ever be able to do the job at the level we live today. The power plants and the fuels lighting up our lives can do the job, but at what cost to us?

All I can do here in my little world, sitting within miles of a nuclear power plant and a coal-fired power plant, is to live a conscious life and do my part to lessen my dependence on power. But first let me post this to my blog after I’ve heated up my coffee in the microwave. And then I’ll turn out the lights.

Coal-power in the backyardCooling towers at the Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant

One thought on “Power – Cheap, Easy, and Hidden

  1. Great post, Pat. Agree with you. We’re so entrenched in our dependence on fuel, there is little we can do. But as little as that may be, we all need to chip in by conserving on energy where and when we can.

    Like

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