I have written several articles the environment. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on the environment and the planet in general.
All you hear today is the Green New Deal. The far left say that we have to destroy our way of life and our dependence on fossil fuels to save the environment. While nothing is said or expected from the Communist/Socialism Block. They are given a free ride. What they fail to realize is that we live in a closed system. What one person does eventually affects everyone. Russia, China are two of the biggest abusers of our environment. While countries like Japan, and China Again continue to rape the resources of the world with no regards to sustainability. Countless species have been harvested to near or total extinction. Once these species are gone, there is no coming back. One example is shark finning. Millions of sharks are killed a year to feed China’s taste for shark fin soup. Nobody truly knows what the repercussions will be if sharks no longer roam the oceans. Though a very smart man named Jacques Cousteau predicted that the oceans would eventually die if the shark disappeared from the face of the earth. If the Oceans die, so to does the world.
Conservation of our resources is the responsibility of everyone. There is plenty enough to go around if we conserve what we have. Ignorance and indifference are two of our worst enemies, followed by greed and lack of education. Hundreds of thousands of acres of rain forests are destroyed each year, due to poor farming techniques and ignorance. Education and proper training in horticulture in these third world countries would go a long way in conserving and protecting our environment.
We do not have to spend trillions of dollars to save our world. Over the last 30 or so years our country and many other countries have made incredible strides in perfecting existing energy sources. Our carbon footprint has been decreasing in the United States and France has made major progress as well. Not all fossil fuels are bad. We have increased our use of natural gas, and coal no longer means a huge carbon footprint. The major problem with many green energy sources, is that they are not reliable. Wind and solar power are two of these energy sources. How do you power a commercial jet with solar and wind power? We relied on wind power for hundreds of years in our navies. When there is no wind, the ships could float aimlessly for days.
In the next section I Will discuss some of the plans the left has in mind when they talk of the green new deal. I am sure after you read through this section, you realize how unrealistic some of these plans are. The only realistic option is nuclear energy. Countries like Canada and France have made progress in Nuclear energy. It has become safer and you can even recycle the nuclear waste and reuse it.
The Green New Deal Explained
This call to end fossil fuels and build green jobs is fiercely debated.
The term “Green New Deal” was first used by Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman in January 2007. America had just experienced its hottest year on record (there have been five hotter since), and Friedman recognized that there wasn’t going to be a palatable, easy solution to climate change as politicians hoped. It was going to take money, effort, and upsetting an industry that has always been very generous with campaign contributions.
Transitioning away from fossil fuels, he argued in a New York Times column, would require the government to raise prices on them, introduce higher energy standards, and undertake a massive industrial project to scale up green technology.
“The right rallying call is for a ‘Green New Deal,’” he wrote, referencing former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic programs to rescue the country from the Great Depression. “If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid—moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables.”
Since then, the “Green New Deal” has been used to describe various sets of policies that aim to make systemic change. The United Nations announced a Global Green New Deal in 2008. Former President Barack Obama added one to his platform when he ran for election in 2008, and Green party candidates, such as Jill Stein and Howie Hawkins, did the same.
But the Green New Deal is a big part of policy debates in the country today largely due to the remarkable ascent of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the youngest woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and already a favorite to run for president in 2024. Her ambitious and wide-ranging proposal, which was a centerpiece of her campaign, addresses an issue 60% of Americans say is already affecting their local community and promises to tackle economic inequality through the creation of high-quality union jobs. The Green New Deal has also been helped by a grassroots outfit called the Sunrise Movement, which organized that much-talked-about protest at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office in February 2019.
That same month, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced in Congress a 14-page nonbinding resolution calling for the federal government to create a Green New Deal. The resolution has more than 100 co-sponsors in Congress and attracted several Democratic presidential candidates, though not the ultimate winner—Former Vice President Joe Biden (see below).
On March 26, 2019, lawmakers in the Senate voted 57-0 against advancing the resolution with 43 out of 47 Democrats voting “present” in order to not take a formal position. The Democrats were protesting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) bringing up the vote without scheduling hearings and expert testimonies first.
While the idea of a Green New Deal and the threat of climate change have been known by politicians for years, this is the most detailed plan yet to transform the economy presented to the American people, even though it is itself extremely vague and more a set of principles and goals than of specific policies.
The resolution says the U.S. must take a leading role in reducing emissions because it is technologically advanced and has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, as displayed below in a chart from the World Bank.
It details how climate change affects the economy, the environment, and national security, and outlines goals and projects for a 10-year national mobilization.
The plan also emphasizes environmental and social justice. It acknowledges how historically oppressed groups—indigenous peoples, people of color, the poor, and migrants—are more likely to be affected by climate change and asks that they be included and consulted. Its progressive spirit is reflected in the calls for the protection of workers’ rights, community ownership, universal healthcare, and a job guarantee.
What’s in the Green New Deal?
The main goal of the plan is to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions down to net-zero and meet 100% of power demand in the country through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources by 2030. The Green New Deal also calls for the creation of millions of jobs to provide a job guarantee to all Americans, along with access to nature, clean air and water, healthy food, a sustainable environment, and community resiliency.
These goals are to be accomplished through the following actions on the part of the federal government:
- Providing investments and leveraging funding to help communities affected by climate change
- Repairing and upgrading existing infrastructure to withstand extreme weather and ensuring all bills related to infrastructure in Congress address climate change
- Investing in renewable power sources
- Investing in manufacturing and industry to spur growth in the use of clean energy
- Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and “smart” power grids that provide affordable electricity
- Upgrading all existing buildings and building new ones so that they achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability.
- Supporting family farming, investing in sustainable farming, and building a more sustainable and equitable food system
- Investing in transportation systems, namely zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, public transit, and high-speed rail
- Restoring ecosystems through land preservation, afforestation, and science-based projects
- Cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites
- Identifying unknown sources of pollution and emissions
- Working with the international community on solutions and helping them achieve Green New Deals
Green New Deal and the Presidential Debates
The Green New Deal was brought up in the 2020 Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates and in campaigning by both parties. In the first Presidential debate, while saying he wanted crystal clean water and air, President Trump disparaged his Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s plan to deal with climate change calling it a Green New Deal and saying it would cost $100 trillion. Biden denied the charge saying, “That’s not my plan.”
In the Vice-Presidential debate, Vice-President Pence said that Biden and Harris wanted to bury the economy under a $2 trillion Green New Deal, noting that Harris was one of the original co-sponsors. Without referring to it by name, Harris disputed Pence’s claims regarding banning fracking, taxing Americans making less than $400,000; she promoted Biden’s plans regarding clean energy as a job creator.
Trump-Pence on the Green New Deal
Trump acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change “to an extent,” but also said “science doesn’t know,” recently. Trump and Pence wanted to keep fossil fuels in the energy conversation both to appeal to those workers and to keep the U.S. relevant as a gas and oil exporter.
Mike Pence, making similar charges to those of President Trump, said at the VP debate, “They [Biden-Harris] want to bury our economy under a $2 trillion Green New Deal. [They] want to abolish fossil fuels, and ban fracking, which would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs all across the heartland.”
President Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution
Although President Biden has declined to endorse the Green New Deal, Vice President Harris was an original sponsor. Harris, however, says she fully supports the Biden climate plan. Called “A Clean Energy Revolution,” the plan has many of the same goals as the Green New Deal but on a less ambitious time frame and at a lower cost.
For example, the Green New Deal aspires to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean, renewable energy sources by 2030. Biden’s plan achieves that goal by 2050. The Green New Deal is estimated to cost about $93 trillion to implement. The proposed Biden plan would involve a Federal government investment of $1.7 trillion and private sector, state, and local buy-in of about $5 trillion.
What’s at Stake?
A common rebuttal to opponents from supporters of the Green New Deal is that although it will be expensive to implement, not doing so will be more expensive in the long run.
Over the past decade, the federal government has spent $350 billion due to extreme weather and fire events, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office. But it will only get uglier, according to experts.
Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program say the global average temperature exceeding pre-industrialized levels by 2 degrees Celsius or more will cause more than $500 billion in lost economic annual output in the U.S. by the year 2100. Forest areas affected by wildfires in the U.S. will at least double by 2050, and there is a risk of damage to $1 trillion of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the U.S.
In order to stop temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius—the target aimed for in the 2015 Paris Agreement—global emissions need to go to zero by 2050. This means that the window to avoid the most severe impact is rapidly closing.
How Much Will It Cost and How Do We Pay for It?
The very real existential threat to the planet makes the Green New Deal a unique mission statement that is hard to ignore or dismiss.
But critics have called it too socialist, too extreme, or too impractical. Some are even worried “their hamburgers would be taken away.”
The U.S. currently gets 80% of its energy from coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Hence, the kind of overhaul the deal is calling for would be very expensive and require significant government intervention. The center-right American Action Forum pegs the cost at $93 trillion.
The Green New Deal resolution doesn’t mention how the U.S. government, which has $22 trillion of debt, would pay for it.
Tax Policy Center senior fellow Howard Gleckman has said the plan may slow the economy by adding to the debt and even drive jobs overseas.
“Instead of the Green New Deal, the federal government could adopt a revenue-neutral carbon tax to decrease emissions without exacerbating the fiscal imbalance,” said Jeffrey Miron, director of economic studies at the Cato Institute.
Edward B. Barbier, the American economics professor who wrote the report that formed the basis of the UN’s Green New Deal, said that, instead of deficit funding, the government should use revenues that come from dismantled subsidies and environmental taxes.
On the other hand, Ocasio-Cortez has told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that “people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes” to pay for the Green New Deal and suggested tax rates of 60% to 70% for the very wealthy.
Advocates of the Green New Deal who promote a heterodox macroeconomic framework called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), including Ocasio-Cortez, believe the government shouldn’t be too concerned about the cost. “The federal government can spend money on public priorities without raising revenue, and it won’t wreck the nation’s economy to do so,” a group of prominent MMT supporters wrote in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. “The U.S. government can never run out of dollars, but humanity can run out of limited global resources. The climate crisis fundamentally threatens those resources and the very human livelihoods that depend on them.”
There are also savings to be expected, say Green New Deal supporters.
The Green Party, whose plan also calls for America to move to 100% clean energy by 2030 and a job guarantee, says it will result in healthcare savings, (there will be fewer cases of disease linked to fossil fuels) and military savings (there will be no reason to safeguard fuel supplies abroad). In addition, it advocates for a robust carbon fee program.
Healthcare and other savings were also touted in a 2015 study by a group of scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley that said it is possible for the U.S. to replace 80% to 85% of the existing energy systems with ones powered entirely by wind, water, and sunlight by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
Investing in a GND Economy
Passage of the Green New Deal is extremely unlikely in the current political climate. However, it’s worth looking at investing opportunities that may arise if it influences action at the state level or gets the green light in the future.
Global bank UBS has said the Green New Deal is indicative of a longer-term trend towards more sustainable and green ways of producing and consuming. Chief Investment Officer (CIO) strategist Justin Waring, who recommends investing in environmentally oriented sustainable investments, said, “In addition to tapping into the themes’ return potential, such an investment also represents a type of ‘hedge’ against the possibility of more-aggressive environmental legislation. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you are worried about environmental legislation, you might want to invest in environmentally friendly investments.”
Josh Price, an energy analyst at Height Capital Markets, told MarketWatch that while the resolution isn’t “a near-term catalyst for us by any means,” the biofuels and renewables space is an interesting place to look for “slow-money, long-time-horizon guys.” 18 He mentioned NRG Energy (NRG), AES (AES), Xcel Energy (XEL) Renewable Energy Group (REGI), and Darling Ingredients (DAR) as stocks to watch.
While a Green New Deal doesn’t explicitly call for eliminating fossil fuel usage, it would hit the industry hard. Nuclear energy stocks are best avoided as well in such a scenario since many don’t consider it to be a safe, renewable, or clean source and it isn’t a part of the resolution. On the other hand, the semiconductor sector and electric vehicles industry would be among the winners.SPONSORED
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What Is the Green New Deal? A Climate Proposal, Explained
If you’ve heard a lot recently about the Green New Deal but still aren’t quite sure what it is, you are not alone. After all, it has been trumpeted by its supporters as the way to avoid planetary destruction, and vilified by opponents as a socialist plot to take away your ice cream. So it’s bound to be somewhat confusing. We’re here to help.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is a congressional resolution that lays out a grand plan for tackling climate change.
Introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, the proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.
The resolution is nonbinding, so even if Congress approves it, nothing in the proposal would become law.
Variations of the proposal have been around for years. Think tanks, the Green Party and even the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman all have had plans for tackling climate change that they labeled a Green New Deal. But after the 2018 midterm elections, a youth activist group called the Sunrise Movement popularized the name by laying out a strategy and holding a sit-in outside the office of Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be-speaker of the House of Representatives, to demand action on climate change. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez joined the protesters, lending her support to their proposal and setting the groundwork for what ultimately became the joint resolution.
Will there be a vote on it?
Republicans have cast the Green New Deal as a socialist takeover and say it is evidence that Democrats are far from the mainstream on energy issues. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, plans to bring the plan to the floor as early as next week. Democrats say that the vote would be a stunt because Republican Senate leaders do not want to have a sincere debate about climate change.
- Dig deeper into the moment.
What problem is the Green New Deal addressing?
The goal of the Green New Deal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change while also trying to fix societal problems like economic inequality and racial injustice.
The resolution uses as its guide two major reports issued last year by the United Nations and by federal scientists who warned that if global temperatures continue to rise, the world is headed for more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts. The research shows that the United States economy could lose billions of dollars by the end of the century because of climate change. Currently, carbon emissions are rising, by 3.4 percent last year in the United States and by 2.7 percent globally, according to early estimates.CLIMATE FWD: A new administration, an ongoing climate emergency — and a ton of news. Our newsletter will help you stay on top of it.Sign Up
Supporters of the Green New Deal also believe that change can’t just be a technological feat, and say it must also tackle poverty, income inequality and racial discrimination.READ MORE REPORTING ON THE GREEN NEW DEALA Green New Deal Is Technologically Possible. Its Political Prospects Are Another Question.Feb. 21, 2019Liberal Democrats Formally Call for a ‘Green New Deal,’ Giving Substance to a Rallying CryFeb. 7, 2019
What are its main provisions?
You can read it for yourself here, but here are the essential elements: It says the entire world needs to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 — meaning as much carbon would have to be absorbed as released into the atmosphere — and the United States must take a “leading role” in achieving that.
The Green New Deal calls on the federal government to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create high-paying jobs, ensure that clean air, clean water and healthy food are basic human rights, and end all forms of oppression.
To achieve those goals, the plan calls for the launch of a “10-year mobilization” to reduce carbon emissions in the United States. It envisions sourcing 100 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-emissions power, digitizing the nation’s power grid, upgrading every building in the country to be more energy-efficient, and overhauling the nation’s transportation system by investing in electric vehicles and high-speed rail.
To address social justice, the resolution says it is the duty of the government to provide job training and new economic development, particularly to communities that currently rely on jobs in fossil fuel industries.
What doesn’t it say?
President Trump has claimed the Green New Deal will take away your “airplane rights.” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, told Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host, that the proposal would confiscate cars and require Americans to “ride around on high-speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears.” And Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, warned that ice cream, cheeseburgers and milkshakes would be a thing of the past because under the Green New Deal, “livestock will be banned.”
The resolution doesn’t do any of those things.
To be sure, there is some confusion about what the Green New Deal does and doesn’t say. That’s partially the fault of its sponsors, who botched the resolution’s initial rollout.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s office initially sent to reporters, but later disavowed, a fact sheet that included some controversial ideas, like guaranteeing economic security including to those “unwilling to work.”
The resolution does call on the federal government to make investments in policies and projects that would eventually change the way we design buildings, travel and eat. For example: cows. To reduce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that cows and other livestock emit, the resolution proposes “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”
The resolution itself also steers clear of endorsing or rejecting specific technologies or sources of energy, something that Mr. Markey said was done purposefully to encourage broader support for the plan.
What’s with the name?
The Green New Deal takes its name and inspiration from the major government makeover, known as the New Deal, launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help the United States recover from the Great Depression.
That series of public-works programs and financial reforms included the Civilian Conservation Corps (which put people to work in manual labor jobs like planting trees and constructing park trails) and the creation of the Public Works Administration to work on the construction of bridges, dams, schools and more.
Like the original New Deal, the Green New Deal is not a single project or piece of legislation.
What are the costs?
That’s not clear yet.
President Trump claimed it would cost $100 trillion. Supporters of the Green New Deal say climate change could be equally costly to the American economy. For now it’s impossible to pin down dollar figures on the plan.
Some examples of why:
One conservative think tank has pegged the cost to the federal government of providing Medicare-to-all at $32 trillion over 10 years, but supporters claimed it would actually save taxpayers $2 trillion over 10 years.
Converting the country to 100 percent clean power? In Vermont alone, which has a goal of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by midcentury, the cost is estimated at $33 billion. Yet the state is seeing job growth in clean energy sectors and expects the transition will spur cost savings for consumers.
Modernizing the electrical grid across the United States could cost as much as $476 billion, yet reap $2 trillion in benefits, according to a 2011 study issued by the Electric Power Research Institute.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has acknowledged that the Green New Deal is going to be expensive, but contends the plan will pay for itself through economic growth.
Do critics offer alternative proposals?
Some Republicans have called for a technology-oriented solution to climate change, but so far no critic has come out with an alternative that matches the scale or scope of the Green New Deal.
How will the Green New Deal shape the debate?
There is going to be a lot more political jockeying around the Green New Deal in coming weeks and months. Republicans have already launched video ads trying to tie Democrats to the proposal, which they have described as “radical.”
And Mr. McConnell’s vote is directly aimed at making life uncomfortable for Democratic presidential contenders like Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. Those senators have all co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution but in some cases have avoided specifics. Ms. Klobuchar, for example, told CNN she saw the Green New Deal as an “aspiration” and “something that we need to move toward.”
At the same time, all of the attention on the Green New Deal has put new pressure on Republican critics to come up with their own plan for cutting greenhouse gases.
It is likely that the Green New Deal will remain a lightning rod throughout the 2020 presidential campaign.
President Joe Biden has set ambitious goals for fighting climate change: To cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 and to have a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. The plan requires electricity generation—the easiest economic sector to green, analysts say—to be carbon-free by 2035.
Where is all that clean electricity going to come from?
A few figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) illustrate the challenge. In 2020 the United States generated about four trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Some 60 percent of that came from burning fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, in some 10,000 generators, large and small, around the country. All of that electricity will need to be replaced—and more, because demand for electricity is expected to rise, especially if we power more cars with it.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind have grown faster than expected; together with hydroelectric, they surpassed coal for the first time ever in 2019 and now produce 20 percent of U.S. electricity. In February the EIA projected that renewables were on track to produce more than 40 percent by 2050—remarkable growth, perhaps, but still well short of what’s needed to decarbonize the grid by 2035 and forestall the climate crisis.
This daunting challenge has recently led some environmentalists to reconsider an alternative they had long been wary of: nuclear power.
Nuclear power has a lot going for it. Its carbon footprint is equivalent to wind, less than solar, and orders of magnitude less than coal. Nuclear power plants take up far less space on the landscape than solar or wind farms, and they produce power even at night or on calm days. In 2020 they generated as much electricity in the U.S. as renewables did, a fifth of the total.
But debates rage over whether nuclear should be a big part of the climate solution in the U.S. The majority of American nuclear plants today are approaching the end of their design life, and only one has been built in the last 20 years. Nuclear proponents are now banking on next-generation designs, like small, modular versions of conventional light-water reactors, or advanced reactors designed to be safer, cheaper, and more flexible.
“We’ve innovated so little in the past half-century, there’s a lot of ground to gain,” says Ashley Finan, the director of the National Reactor Innovation Center at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Yet an expansion of nuclear power faces some serious hurdles, and the perennial concerns about safety and long-lived radioactive waste may not be the biggest: Critics also say nuclear reactors are simply too expensive and take too long to build to be of much help with the climate crisis.
Bombs into plowshares
A test reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory, where Finan now works, produced the first electrical power from nuclear energy in 1951. Its success was soon trumpeted in President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous “atoms for peace” speech to the United Nations in 1953. Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist who runs the non-profit Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, points out that the speech was given shortly after a thermonuclear test blast in the Soviet Union, when atomic fears were at a peak.
“Basically, he said this is too doom and gloom—give me something good to say,” Makhijani explains. Eisenhower’s speech ushered in a new nuclear era: Global interest in nuclear power spiked, and countries around the world began building large reactors, often with technology and expertise from the United States.
By 1996, nuclear power provided 17.6 percent of the world’s electricity. Today, that’s down to about 10 percent. The Fukushima accident in 2011 is a major reason for the decline. Japan’s 48 nuclear reactors have largely stayed offline since then; Germany has closed 11 of its 17 reactors and intends to close the remaining six by 2022. Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland are also phasing out their nuclear programs.
The United States, still the world’s largest producer by far of nuclear electricity, currently has 94 reactors in 28 states. But after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, when a reactor partially melted down near Middletown, Pennsylvania, enthusiasm for nuclear energy dimmed.
The average age of American power plants, which are licensed to run for 40 years, is 39; in the last decade, at least five have been retired early, largely because maintenance costs and cheaper sources of power made them too expensive to operate.
The most recent closure came just last week, on April 30, when the second of two reactors was shut down at the Indian Point power plant, on the Hudson River north of New York City. Until a few years ago, those reactors had supplied a quarter of the city’s power. Nationwide, the EIA predicts that nuclear power generation will decline 17 percent between 2018 and 2025.
Late and over budget
While environmental opposition may have been the primary force hindering nuclear development in the 1980s and 90s, now the biggest challenge may be costs. Few nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. recently because they are very expensive to build here, which makes the price of their energy high.
Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, led a group of scientists who recently completed a two-year study examining the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. and western Europe. They found that “without cost reductions, nuclear energy will not play a significant role” in decarbonizing the power sector.
“In the West, the nuclear industry has substantially lost its ability to build large plants,” Buongiorno says, pointing to Southern Company’s effort to add two new reactors to Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia. They have been under construction since 2013, are now billions of dollars over budget—the cost has more than doubled—and years behind schedule. In France, ranked second after the U.S. in nuclear generation, a new reactor in Flamanville is a decade late and more than three times over budget.
“We have clearly lost the know-how to build traditional gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants,” Buongiorno says. Because no new plants were built in the U.S. for decades, he and his colleagues found, the teams working on a project like Vogtle haven’t had the learning experiences needed to do the job efficiently. That leads to construction delays that drive up costs.
Elsewhere, reactors are still being built at lower cost, “largely in places where they build projects on budget, and on schedule,” Finan explains. China and South Korea are the leaders. (To be fair, several of China’s recent large-scale reactors have also had cost overruns and delays.)
“The cost of nuclear power in Asia has been a quarter, or less, of new builds in the West,” Finan says. Much lower labor costs are one reason, according to both Finan and the MIT report, but better project management is another.
The MIT study suggests that standardizing reactor designs and building the same reactor many times is a key to reducing costs. One way to do that may be with small modular reactors (SMRs), which are generally considered to be less than 300 megawatts, compared to the 1,000 megawatts of a traditional nuclear power plant. Their smaller size, Buongiorno says, may allow these reactors’ components to be built in factories, allowing for economies of production, and reducing construction times and uncertainties. The small reactors could either be used individually or combined to make a single large power plant.
In the U.S., a company called NuScale has recently received design certification approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its SMR, the first and only company to do so. Its reactor is a miniaturized version of a traditional reactor, in which pressurized water cools the core where nuclear fission is taking place. But in the NuScale design, the whole reactor is itself immersed in a pool of water designed to protect it from accidental meltdown.
NuScale hopes to build 12 of these reactors to produce 720 megawatts at the Idaho National Laboratory as a pilot project. It’s been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has approved up to $1.4 billion to help demonstrate the technology. NuScale plans to sell the plant to an energy consortium called Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.
Last year, eight of the 36 utilities in the consortium backed out of the project, citing the cost. The company recently announced the project would be delayed to 2030, and the cost would rise from $4.2 billion to $6.1 billion.
Nuclear opponents point to this latest disappointment as yet another example of why nuclear isn’t up to the task.
“If your first SMR isn’t built until the late 2020s, and then you have to turn it on, not to mention set up a whole new global supply chain, are you going to reach zero emissions by 2035?” asks IEER’s Makhijani. “You can’t make a significant contribution in time.” He adds that the industry’s long history of overruns and delays are especially problematic when considering climate commitments. “There’s no room for significant mistakes.”
A variable and uncertain grid
On an electric grid, supply has to precisely match the constantly fluctuating demand; at the moment, there are no large storage reservoirs for electrons, like the ones we have for water. Renewables make this balancing act harder, because they produce a fluctuating supply of electricity—when it’s cloudy, or the wind isn’t blowing, the grid needs more energy from other sources.
The future of nuclear power will depend in part on how well it can balance a grid that increasingly relies on renewables. Nuclear has traditionally been considered a baseload source of energy—the reactors run as often as possible to spread their enormous fixed costs over the largest number of kilowatt-hours. Unlike gas turbines, which can be turned on and off in seconds to “follow the load,” reactors take an hour or more to cut their production in half.
It’s not that reactors can’t follow the load; they’re just slower. “They can and do, because they have to,” Buongiorno says. “It’s just never an attractive economic proposition.”
Last fall, the DOE awarded $80 million each to two companies working on advanced reactor designs intended in part to address this problem. The first, TerraPower, a startup founded by Bill Gates, is working on a sodium-cooled reactor that, instead of using its heat directly to drive a turbine and generate electricity, stores the heat in a tank of molten salt, where it can be tapped to generate electricity when needed.
The second grant went to a company called X-energy for a gas-cooled reactor that operates at very high temperatures, producing steam that would be suitable for industrial processes as well as generating electricity. That kind of “load-switching,” Finan and Buongiorno both say, can help nuclear reactors manage variable demand for electricity—while at the same time helping to decarbonize industry. Small reactors might even be sited right next to a factory that requires both heat and electricity. The high-level radioactive waste they produce, however, would need to be transported to a centralized location for management.
But while promising, none of these new designs are moving quickly enough to meet Biden’s targets. DOE officials called their decision to support these two pilot projects, which aim to be fully operational by 2028, “their boldest move yet.”
Meanwhile, there’s a more direct way to balance the variability of renewables: store electricity in batteries. The market for utility-scale battery storage is exploding; it increased by 214 percent in 2020, and the EIA predicts that battery capacity will surge from its current 1,600 megawatts to 10,700 by 2023
Makhijani thinks nuclear power isn’t going to be needed to balance the grid. A study he conducted in 2016 for the state of Maryland found that increased battery storage, combined with incentives to consumers to reduce their electricity use at peak times, would almost allow utilities to balance the variability of renewables.
They’d just need to store a little energy as hydrogen, which can be produced by running renewable electricity through water and then converted back to electricity in a fuel cell. That process is currently very expensive, Makhijani says, but “as long as it’s not giant amounts, it’s affordable.”
A window of opportunity
Worldwide, nuclear power could be a significant player in the coming decades. China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter, increased its nuclear output 6 percent in 2020 and currently has 17 new reactors under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association, a trade group. India is building six. The U.S. is unlikely to match that anytime soon.
Experts differ sharply on the need to build new nuclear power plants in the U.S. Some models suggest that it would be possible with the right policy incentives to meet Biden’s 2035 target for decarbonizing the grid by building out only renewables.
Existing nuclear plants are another story. The benefit of keeping them online for now is more widely accepted—although Makhijani, for one, argues that their carbon-free energy could be replaced more cheaply by investing in new wind and solar.
Because they’re already built, these reactors are essentially sunk costs, and since most have been online for decades, they’ve already depreciated. Still, in many places their energy has to compete on the market, which some may fail to do. That was one factor behind the decision to shut down Indian Point, the plant’s owner, Entergy Corporation, has acknowledged.
The status of existing plants has big implications: Including Indian Point, seven gigawatts of nuclear power are in danger of going offline before 2026 due to depressed electricity prices.
“Taking out nuclear power plants completely destroys gains with renewables,” Buongiorno says. When the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which produced about 8 percent of California’s electricity, closed in 2013, the local cost of electricity increased, and carbon dioxide emissions in California increased by 9.2 million tons the following year.
The MIT report found that in the next decade, the most cost-efficient, reliable grid comes from an energy mix. “Our analysis shows a big share of nuclear, a big share of renewables, and some storage is the best mix that is low-carbon, reliable, and at the lowest cost,” Buongiorno says.
Co-author Michael Corradini, the former director of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, says federal policies that reward the most cost-effective, low-carbon energy—regardless of the technology—make the most sense. Taxing carbon is one example of a technology-neutral energy policy; a renewable energy standard, of the kind Biden proposed in his infrastructure package, might be another. “If you tax carbon, people are going to switch fuels to things that are more economical,” Corradini says.
At the end of the day, “we need an all-of-the-above policy.”
Ten things to know about electric vehicles — and how you can make the future electric.
1. Electric vehicles now include cars, transit buses, trucks of all sizes, and even big-rig tractor trailers that are at least partially powered by electricity.
Electric vehicles fall into three main categories:
- Battery electric vehicles are powered by electricity stored in a battery pack.
- Plug-in hybrids combine a gasoline or diesel engine with an electric motor and large rechargeable battery.
- Fuel cell vehicles split electrons from hydrogen molecules to produce electricity to run the motor.
It’s more than just passenger cars now — from New York to Mississippi, you may find yourself on a quiet, zipping electric transit bus. The first electric fire truck in the nation will be welcomed by Angelenos in 2021 — and in the coming years, electric sanitation trucks will be quietly gliding through neighborhoods to pick up garbage and recycling, and more electric trucks will be delivering packages from warehouses to homes, air pollution-free.
CITYOFSTPETE / CC BY-ND 2.0; DENNIS SCHROEDER / NRELCharging up an electric car in St. Petersburg, Florida (left). An electric heavy duty truck used to move freight at the Port of Long Beach. California passed the nation’s first electric truck standard in June 2020.
2. Electric vehicles are saving the climate — and our lives. Here’s how.
The largest source of climate pollution in the United States? Transportation. To solve the climate crisis, we need to make the vehicles on our roads as clean as possible. We have only a decade left to change the way we use energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Emissions from cars and trucks are not only bad for our planet, they’re bad for our health. Air pollutants from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles cause asthma, bronchitis, cancer, and premature death.
The long-term health impacts of localized air pollution last a lifetime, with the effects borne out in asthma attacks, lung damage, and heart conditions.
As the COVID-19 pandemic — a respiratory disease — continues to spread, a study by Harvard University found “a striking association between long-term exposure to harmful fine particulate matter and COVID-19 mortality in the United States,” explains Rashmi Joglekar, a staff scientist at Earthjustice’s Toxic Exposure & Health Program. One of the primary causes of fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) is combustion from gasoline and diesel car engines.
An earlier study by Duke University underscored the health costs: each gallon of gasoline purchased at the gas station carries with it up to $3.80 in health and environmental costs. The diesel in big rigs and farm equipment is worse, with an additional $4.80 in social costs to our health and climate per gallon.
ANDI PANTZ / GETTY IMAGES; CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICESmog clogs the air around the 405 freeway in Los Angeles (left). A mother comforts a child receiving treatment for asthma in Southern California.
3. Electric vehicles have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline-powered cars, no matter where your electricity comes from.
The electricity that charges and fuels battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles comes from power grids, which rely on a range of sources — from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.
Energy grids can vary from one state to another, which means that the carbon footprint of driving an electric vehicle ranges depending on the source of its electricity.
Earthjustice attorneys are working across the country to bring 100% clean energy, but on our way there (consumption of renewable energy recently surpassed coal), a portion of the electricity in this country will continue to be generated by the burning of fossil fuels.
The very good news? Because electric vehicles are more efficient in converting energy to power cars and trucks, electricity across the board is cleaner and cheaper as a fuel for vehicles, even when that electricity comes from the dirtiest grid.
Running electric or hybrid cars on the grid in any state has lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, as revealed in a study by experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists. And as states clean up their energy grids, the benefits of electric vehicles become stronger.
Try out their “How Clean is Your Electric Vehicle?” online tool to see how electric vehicle emissions measure up where you live — get a personalized report on how much carbon pollution you save by going electric, based on your ZIP code and electric vehicle make/model.
DENNIS SCHROEDER / NREL; THOMAS BARWICK / GETTY IMAGESAn electric hybrid heavy duty truck, used to move freight at the Port of Long Beach in California, is plugged in to charge (left). Charging an electric car at home before a family trip in Washington state.
4. Through their entire lifetime, electric cars are better for the climate.
In the manufacturing process, electric vehicles will produce more global warming emissions than the average gasoline vehicle, because electric cars’ large lithium-ion batteries require a lot of materials and energy to build. (For example, manufacturing a mid-sized electric car with an 84-mile range, results in 15% more emissions.)
However, once the vehicles get on the road, it’s a whole different energy story.
Electric vehicles make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within, at most, eighteen months of driving — and continue to outperform gasoline cars until the end of their lives
The average electric car on the road today has the same greenhouse-gas emissions as a car getting 88 miles per gallon — which is far greater than the average new gasoline-powered car (31 mpg) or truck (21 mpg), according to analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists.MECKY / GETTY IMAGESDriving an electric car in the Holland Tunnel in New York City. Because electric vehicles are more efficient in converting energy to power cars and trucks, electricity across the board is cleaner and cheaper as a fuel for vehicles, even when that electricity comes from the dirtiest grid.
5. Electric vehicles can charge up at home, at work, while you’re at the store.
One advantage of electric vehicles is that many can be recharged wherever they make their home, whether that’s your home or a bus terminal. This makes electric vehicles a good solution for truck and bus fleets that return regularly to a central depot or yard.
As more electric vehicles hit the market and are used more broadly, new recharging solutions — including adding more public charging locations in shopping centers, parking garages, and workplaces — will be required for people and businesses without the same access at home.
“Having dependable charging at work let me buy a plug-in hybrid car without hesitating,” Ari Weinstein, a research scientist, shared with Sara Gersen, an Earthjustice attorney and clean energy expert. Weinstein is a renter who has limited options to be able to charge at home.
“The opportunity to drive an electric car shouldn’t be limited to people who own a home with a garage,” explains Gersen.
“Workplace charging is one key element of democratizing access to electric cars, and we need to move aggressively if we are going to meet this challenge. Electric utilities have a big role to play.”SARA GERSEN / EARTHJUSTICEElectric car drivers Stephanie Tiffany, Shanying Cui, and Ari Weinstein (left to right) purchased their vehicles after their workplace in Southern California installed charging stations.
6. Planning now by states and utilities to build infrastructure for charging electric vehicles will go a long way.
Figuring out how to charge these vehicles will become an increasingly important problem to tackle.
Utilities in California are investing more than $1 billion to build the charging infrastructure necessary for electric cars, trucks, and buses throughout the state. These kinds of infrastructure investments will become increasingly important for public transit agencies, businesses, and people who want to purchase an electric car but are unable to install a charger at home.
“The federal government isn’t working on a national solution for charging the country’s electric vehicles,” explains Adrian Martinez, a senior attorney at Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign, who has advocated for electrification infrastructure in California, “which means that it’s up to each state to take a hard look at its grid and figure out an electric vehicle charging plan for its turf.”
RYAN OZAWA / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; MYRTLE BEACH, THEDIGITEL / CC BY 2.0Charging stations outside of stores in Mililani, Hawaii (left). Electric vehicles charging in Crosswinds, S.C.
7. Transit buses, that reliable fixture rumbling through our towns and cities, may just be the key to the electric vehicle revolution.
Buses are the workhorse of our transit system, providing affordable transportation to anyone and everyone. They are a cornerstone of daily life in many cities, making them an important step to getting big electric vehicles into the broader transportation market.
A huge leap forward came when, together with a coalition of labor, environmental and public transit activists, we successfully pushed Los Angeles Metro to invest in a full fleet of zero-emissions electric buses — and then secured a commitment from the state of California to commit to a 100% electric transit bus fleet in the next decade.
By 2040, every bus you ride on or wave to in California will be a quiet, clean electric bus.
COURTESY OF BUILD YOUR DREAMS; ADRIAN MARTINEZ / EARTHJUSTICETechnicians assemble an electric transit bus at a Build Your Dreams facility (left). Electric transit buses in Los Angeles.https://www.youtube.com/embed/jq-F_admjyMPALOMA / YOUTUBETake a ride on an electric bus in the foothills of Los Angeles. In the still image above, the bus receives a quick-charge at a docking station in the Pomona Transit Center.
8. Electric trucks — delivering goods from warehouses to homes — can make a big, clean difference. We need more of them.
While diesel and gas trucks only make up a small portion of the vehicles on our roads and highways, they generate massive amounts of climate and air pollution. In the most impacted communities, these trucks create diesel “death zones” with more severe respiratory and heart problems.
In California, gas and diesel trucks are responsible for nearly half of the transportation-related air pollution in the state, even though they are vastly outnumbered by cars in the state.
Today, there are 70 different types of zero-emission trucks on the market, and California in particular has become an important base for designing and manufacturing big electric vehicles like buses with companies like Proterra and Build Your Dreams in the state.
It is now time for major manufacturers to start producing electric trucks on a larger scale. Communities across California successfully fought for a strong electric trucks rule — the first protection of its kind in the country — to require truck makers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks starting in 2024.
Because of California’s market power, this rule will help jumpstart a transition to electric trucks in other states.
An electric FedEx delivery truck makes deliveries in Illinois (left). Heavy duty zero-emissions truck at the Port of Long Beach, Calif.
9. Through all our electric vehicle work, Earthjustice aims to ensure that the people who are most impacted by pollution have the option to use truly clean and zero-emissions vehicles.
“If we’re going to have a real shot at stemming the impact of the climate crisis,” explains Athena Motavvef, Earthjustice’s associate legislative representative in Washington, D.C., “we need to ditch fossil fuels, pivot to 100% clean energy, and achieve zero emissions. Making electric vehicles accessible to all people is an important step towards that goal.”
In February, Earthjustice endorsed the Electric Vehicle Freedom Act, introduced by Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The bill proposes establishing a network of electric charging stations alongside public roads, to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles by the wider public.WHAT IS “ZERO EMISSIONS”? Zero emissions means that a vehicle emits no pollutants to disrupt the climate or dirty our air.
It’s a broader category that describes electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and other emerging types of technology.
In simple terms, zero emissions means technology that doesn’t rely on combustion to power vehicles.
Meanwhile, Earthjustice attorneys are working to help our nation’s transportation sector transition away from gasoline combustion to zero emissions, including:
- Electric Trucks: We’ve been working to increase the number of electric trucks in California — together with 20,000 residents, we asked the California Air Resources Board to enact the nation’s first electric truck manufacturing standard.
- Charging Infrastructure: And Earthjustice is working with the Public Utilities Commission in California and other states to build more charging infrastructure. This would relieve one of the biggest barriers to having an all-electric vehicle for those who do not have a garage or a driveway, through either workplace charging, or centralized electric vehicle fast charging.
- Zero-Emissions Vehicles: We’re in court defending the ZEV mandate, which is essentially the California state mandate that a certain percentage of vehicle purchases in the state be zero emissions. Ten states have adopted the ZEV mandate through California’s special legal authority in the Clean Air Act.
States that have adopted California’s stronger greenhouse gas standards, and zero emissions vehicle standards.
“Fortunately, as we have seen a change in administration, there’s a lot of opportunity at the federal level to bring electric transportation into communities. But we must recognize that a lot of the decisions on clean transportation are local. It’s city councils, it’s mayors, it’s state legislatures that are making the vast majority of transportation decisions in this country.”
And it’s you.
10. You can help make the future electric (even if you’re car-free).
From cars to buses to trucks, electric vehicles are transforming how we move goods and ourselves, cleaning up our air and climate — and your voice can help advance the electric wave.
- Urge your city to invest in electric buses, trucks, and charging infrastructure. Speak with your local elected officials and write letters-to-the-editors (see tips).
- If you (or your friends) are in the market for a car, buy electric. Check if your local utility offers rebates or other incentives for installing electric vehicle charging stations at your home.
- Enlighten your friends. Share the amazing electric facts you’ve learned. Encourage your friends to find out how much carbon pollution they could save by going electric.
- Subscribe to Earthjustice emails. We only send you the best.
- Follow on Twitter Earthjustice’s @RightToZero campaign and the Right to Zero team for the latest news on the shift to zero-emissions. We won’t just imagine a zero-emissions future. We will live it.
Top Five Reasons to Choose an Electric Car
1. Electric vehicles save you money
No matter where you plug in across the country, electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Every electricity provider in the 50 largest US cities offers a rate plan that makes filling up on electricity cheaper than gasoline, adding up to a median yearly savings of over $770.
Electric vehicles can also save you on maintenance costs. Battery EVs have no gasoline engine, they do not need oil changes, spark plugs, or timing belts, and unlike gasoline motors, electric motors required no routine maintenance. These reduced maintenance costs can save an EV owner over $1,500 over the life of the vehicle, compared to a gasoline-powered version of their vehicle.
View average savings in your city.https://public.tableau.com/views/EVsavingsmap/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=no&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=0
2. Electric vehicles cut your emissions
Even when the electricity used to fuel an EV comes from the dirtiest coal-dominated grid in the US, EVs still produce less global warming pollution than their conventional counterparts. The average EV in the US today produces the emissions equivalent of a gasoline car that gets 73 miles per gallon. The emissions performance of EVs is set to only improve as wind and solar power displace coal-fired electricity generation. Many EV owners are also choosing to pair their EV with rooftop solar panels and home energy storage units. When powered exclusively by renewable energy, an EV can operate nearly emissions free.
3. Electric vehicles offer you a better driving experience
An electric engine generates instant torque, which means that electric vehicles zoom off starting lines and provide smooth, responsive acceleration and deceleration. Electric vehicles also have a low center of gravity, which improves handling, responsiveness, and ride comfort.
4. Electric vehicles cut your oil use
Electric vehicles are an essential part of the UCS plan to cut the nation’s oil use in half in twenty years. Using oil causes an array of problems, and transportation remains reliant on oil as the dominant energy source. Electric vehicles offer the potential to disrupt this status quo relationship between transportation and oil, and offer a cleaner, better way to fuel transportation for everyone. Overall, electric vehicles can cut US oil use by 1.5 million barrels a day by 2035.
5. Electric vehicles are convenient
Instead of searching for a gasoline station with the cheapest prices, you can charge at home at a cheaper and much more predictable cost. And plugging in at home takes only a few seconds and lets you wake up with a “full tank” every morning. EVs also have other convenient advantages. Battery electric vehicles are mechanically much simpler than a conventional gasoline car, so the maintenance requirements are often much simpler and, for this reason, cheaper to maintain. Drivers of electric cars a do not have to change their car’s motor oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, and they never have to schedule spark plug changes, timing belt replacements, or other engine tune up items. Depending on your location, EVs have additional benefits, like access to restricted express lanes on highways and bridges, special parking spots, and reduced or free tolls.
Top Myths Surrounding Zero-Emission Vehicles
THE WEST CAN LEAD THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO-EMISSION TRANSPORTATION FUTURE
State programs that support the increased use of electric vehicles have been gaining ground across the United States in recent years. From 2005 to 2010, 13 states adopted California’s Low-Emission Vehicle (“LEV”) Standard, while nine states have also adopted the complimentary Zero-Emission Vehicle (“ZEV”) Standard, which sets production requirements for clean vehicles based on a manufacturer’s state sales volumes. Last year, Colorado adopted an LEV standard – a first for the Intermountain West.
Governor Polis, in his first Executive Order, directed Colorado air regulators to also consider adoption of the ZEV standard. New Mexico is undertaking adoption of both the LEV and ZEV standards in response to an Executive Order from Governor Lujan Grisham.
And while Arizona is not considering these standards, the Arizona Corporation Commission adopted a new policy to encourage regulated utilities to invest in infrastructure and develop programs that support electric-vehicle charging and widespread transportation electrification. While the Arizona Commission will hash out the details of its EV policy in 2019, it sent a clear signal about the potential benefits of EVs in Arizona. For example, electric vehicles and policies that support their increased production can save residents money in the long term, create numerous health benefits, and go a long way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
MYTH 1: ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLES RAISE THE COST OF ELECTRICITY FOR CONSUMERS
Increased adoption of ZEVs means an increased demand for electricity in order to charge those vehicles. This additional electric load improves utilization of the electric grid, reducing the cost per unit of electricity for all utility ratepayers. According to two cost-benefit analyses on electric vehicles by the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates, the average household in Colorado could save nearly $77 annually on their utility bill by 2050, while the average household in Arizona could save $176 per year by 2050. Key to realizing these cost savings is making sure electric utilities plan for ZEVs and incentivize ZEV owners to charge at the right time of day – off-peak hours – when energy is cheapest. ZEV charging may also help integrate higher levels of renewables, as battery charging soaks up excess daytime solar or nighttime wind generation.
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MYTH 2: ONLY WEALTHY PEOPLE CAN AFFORD ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLES
A major benefit from increased use of ZEVs is the reduced demand and reliance on gasoline. ZEVs use lower cost, regionally produced electricity instead of gasoline imported from another state. While the up-front cost of battery electric vehicles is higher today than conventional vehicles, the lower fuel and annual maintenance costs of ZEVs save customers money over the long run. And, ZEV prices continue to fall due to innovation in component parts, such as batteries.
According to two Electric Vehicle Cost-Benefit Analyses done by M.J. Bradley, Coloradans could save an estimated $373 per vehicle per year in annual operating costs, compared with owning gasoline vehicles by 2050, and Arizonans could save an estimated $590 per vehicle per year in annual operating costs, compared with owning gasoline vehicles by 2050.
MYTH 3: ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLES ONLY BENEFIT THE FEW
Not only do individual drivers reap the financial benefits of ZEVs, but ZEV use generates benefits for residents across the state. With high levels of ZEV adoption, Western states could see billions of dollars in savings and benefits for their residents by 2050.
COLORADO STATEWIDE SAVINGS
In Colorado, ZEVs could provide the state between $7.6 billion and $43 billion in economic benefits by 2050. Importantly, the higher level of savings is associated with higher rates of ZEV adoption – with ZEVs accounting for 26% of vehicles in 2030, and 98% by 2050.
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According to the M.J. Bradley Report:
- $300 million will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills,
- $6.3 billion will accrue directly to Colorado drivers in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs, and
- $1.1 billion will accrue to society at large, as the avoidance of costs associated with greenhouse-gas emissions.
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According to the M.J. Bradley Report:
- $4.1 billion will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills,
- $29.1 billion will accrue directly to Colorado drivers in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs, and
- $9.7 billion will accrue to society at large, as the avoidance of costs associated with greenhouse-gas emissions.
ARIZONA STATEWIDE SAVINGS
In Arizona, ZEVs could provide the state between $3.7 billion and $31 billion in economic benefits statewide by 2050. Again, the higher level of economic benefits is associated with an ambitious increase in ZEVs on the road – nearly 1 million by 2030 and 5 million by 2050, along with managed battery charging.
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According to the M.J. Bradley Report:
- At least $200 million will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills,
- $2.6 billion will accrue directly to Arizona drivers in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs,
- $500 million will accrue to owners of public charging infrastructure in the state,
- $300 million will accrue to Arizona residents due to reduced costs of complying with future
carbon reduction regulations, and
- $70 million will accrue to society at large, as the value of reduced NOx emissions.
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According to the M.J. Bradley Report:
- At least $200 million will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills,
- Up to $9.0 billion will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills,
- $15.9 billion will accrue directly to Arizona drivers in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs,
- $3.9 billion will accrue to owners of public charging infrastructure in the state,
- $2.3 billion will accrue to Arizona residents due to reduced costs of complying with future carbon reduction regulations, and
- $400 million will accrue to society at large, as the value of reduced NOx emissions.
MYTH 4: ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLES RUN ON COAL-POWERED ELECTRICITY
Zero-emission vehicles do not have tailpipe emissions, but greenhouse gases and other pollutants can still be emitted by power plants that make the electricity that charges ZEVs. The total greenhouse gas emissions from increased ZEV use in Colorado and Arizona will be significantly less than the emissions produced by the equivalent amount of gasoline-powered cars. The emissions associated with the electricity generated to charge ZEVs depends on individual utility’s generation sources.
Plug-in electric vehicles charged in Arizona and Colorado have significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional vehicle. ZEVs could reduce carbon pollution in Colorado by as much as 17.5 million tons by 2050 — a 79 percent reduction from the transportation sector, compared to what it would be if those vehicles were fueled with gasoline. Electric vehicles could reduce carbon pollution in Arizona by as much as 26.1 million tons by 2050, thereby reducing transportation carbon emissions by 82 percent.
MYTH 5: THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE YEARS AWAY
Electric vehicles decrease tailpipe emissions and have an immediate impact on local air quality. Plug-in electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions. In areas with ozone problems, such as central Arizona and Colorado’s Front Range, plug-in electric vehicles would reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions, a major precursor to ground-level ozone. In Arizona, plug-in vehicles could reduce NOx emissions by as much as 2,900 metric tons in 2050. These reductions can help address local air-quality issues and lead to lower rates of asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular problems. What’s more, as we continue to successfully transition our electricity generation fleet to zero-emission renewable resources, the pollution-fighting power of ZEVs will grow and compound over time.
If we are going to decarbonize the West, we must reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector. The West has an opportunity to demonstrate how smart, forward-thinking transportation policies that encourage the production and use of ZEVs can play a key role in that transition.
Natural Gas: Pros and Cons
- Widely used, contributes 21% of the world’s energy production today.
- Delivery infrastructure already exists.
- End use appliances already widespread.
- Used extensively for power generation as well as heat.
- Cleanest of all the fossil fuels.
- Burns quite efficiently.
- Emits 45% less CO2 than coal.
- Emits 30% less CO2 than oil.
Hazards of Natural Gas
While natural gas is considered the safest and cleanest fossil fuel for domestic and industrial use, there are inherent dangers to remember.
Natural gas is non-toxic (non-poisonous), but can cause death by suffocation if the gas displaces the air in a confined space. A person will experience the following effects as gas concentration increases:
- At 25 to 30% gas in air, the oxygen deficiency can cause ringing ears, euphoria, and unexplained behavioral changes.
- At 50% gas-air mixture, a person taking in a few breaths will be incapacitated and unable to self-rescue.
- At 75% gas, a person is immediately incapacitated and death will occur in a matter of minutes.
Natural gas is always lighter than air, and will rise in a room if allowed to escape from a burner or leaking fitting. On the contrary, propane is heavier than air and will settle in a basement or other low level.
Incomplete combustion can occur when the gas mixture is richer than 10%. When this occurs, there is not enough oxygen to completely oxidize all the carbon to carbon dioxide. Some of the remaining carbon reacts to form the incomplete, less stable compound known as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is toxic (poisonous) and can cause physical illness and death when inhaled under certain conditions. It is lighter than air and mixes very thoroughly.
If not contained, natural gas combustion can be hazardous. Uncontrolled combustion causes a very sharp pressure shock wave through a gas / air mixture. If this type of combustion is in an unconfined space (such as in the open atmosphere), the result is a flash fire. If in a confined space, the result is usually an explosion.
Odorization of natural gas.
Natural gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.
PNG, like most gas utilities, adds mercaptan odorants to all gas. These odorants are commercial blends of sulfur compounds with a distinctive “rotten egg” smell.
The US Department of Transportation requires that most utility gas is odorized, such that a person with a normal sense of smell can detect and identify the gas odor at 1% of gas in air. This is about 1/5th the Lower Flammable Limit.
Hydropower pros and cons
In 2019, 6.6% of the energy generated in the United States was from large-scale hydropower plants. Hydroelectricity, which is created by hydropower, is a popular form of renewable energy that uses the flow of water to generate electricity.
We all know that hydroelectricity is both renewable and green, but what are the other advantages this technology offers? Are there any disadvantages?
Read the hydroelectric energy pros and cons list below to find out.
Pros and cons of hydroelectric energy
|Low emissions||Expensive to build|
Hydropower has been used for generations to provide the U.S. with reliable, fossil fuel-free electricity.
It is a great renewable energy source because water is usually very abundant, but it comes with some environmental drawbacks. While the power source itself is carbon dioxide-free, building dams along a river can have consequences for the native fish species.
How hydroelectric energy works
Hydropower plants create energy by using the force of water to turn turbines. They operate similarly to how a coal-powered plant is run.
For example, when coal is burned in a coal plant, the steam that is created powers turbines that then create electricity. With hydropower, the energy source that generates power is water.
The most popular form of hydropower, also known as hydroelectric power, is a large dam that holds water in a reservoir, like the picture below. When electricity is needed, water is released from the reservoir, which then propels turbines to produce electricity.
Hydropower plants are powered by water, which spins turbines to generate electricity. Image source: USGS
Advantages of hydroelectric energy
Hydroelectric energy is classified as a renewable energy source because it is powered by water, and water is a naturally replenishing resource.
Since water is the energy source that powers a hydropower plant, there is no pollution emitted during the generation of power. Both of these factors make hydropower renewable, because water is naturally replenishing and because it is not a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Low emissions
The action of generating electricity with hydropower energy does not emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that drives global climate change.
Hydroelectricity is a very reliable renewable energy source.
Water flow is usually very predictable and is taken into consideration when determining where a hydropower plant is built, either on an actively flowing river or built with a dam to manage water flow.
Additionally, the output of electricity can be adjusted. If energy demand is low, water can be averted from the turbines and less energy will be produced. The opposite is true if more energy is needed – more water can flow into the plant for electricity production.
Generally, hydropower is a very safe form of power generation.
Disadvantages of hydroelectric energy
1. Environmental consequences
Hydropower facilities can be tricky because when one is built with a dam, such as the famous Hoover Dam in Nevada, a previously dry land area will be flooded with water, in order to be used as a reservoir. That means whatever habitat was in that location will be ruined. Also, the natural flow of the river will be affected.
A non-natural water flow leads to issues ranging from less sediment reaching the end of the river, a natural way to build up and maintain land, to affecting fish migration patterns. Also, many rivers travel through multiple counties and if they are dammed, upstream countries could take more water than is fair and leave less water for countries downriver.
2. Expensive to build
Building any type of power plant is expensive – hydroelectric power plants can cost as much as $580 per kilowatt to be built, and they usually range from 10MW to 30MWs (where one MW is equal to 1,000 kilowatts).
This means that the upfront cost of building a hydropower plant can be millions of dollars. Compared to the falling prices of solar installations, for example, hydropower is a more challenging renewable project to finance.
3. Drought potential
The ability to create electricity can be severely reduced if there is a drought and not enough water is flowing into the plant.
4. Limited reservoirs
It is challenging to find a suitable spot that has a large year-round water supply, with the right amount of water and is close enough to existing power lines.
It is also a delicate balancing act to keeping enough river water wild (meaning without dams), versus damming up many rivers for power.
Hydropower vs other renewable power sources
The main advantages of hydroelectric power are that it is 100% renewable, it can generate electricity at any time day or night, and its operation is generally safe.
However, it is challenging to build hydropower plants because you need to completely dam up a river. Not many utility companies can afford this, and usually governments foot the bill for hydropower plants.
Interestingly, states with a lot of hydropower plants tend to have cheaper electricity costs. So if states are willing to pay the upfront costs to build hydropower plants, they can reduce consumers’ electric bills.
Solar power is a cheap source of renewable energy but hydroelectric power is more consistent since water is rushing through the turbines 24/7, versus the sun that only shines during the day.
While windpower is also a very consistent form of renewable power, wind turbines will have a higher maintenance cost than hydropower plants because the turbines are larger and constantly moving, meaning they break down more easily.
As for biofuels, hydropower is superior because once the plant is built and running, the environmental impacts are less. With biofuels, you need to constantly cut down trees or plants that will be burned for fuel. But with hydropower, water is plentiful and does not emit CO2 when powering the plant.
While no power source is perfect, hydropower can provide a good balance of renewable energy that produces reliable power with limited environmental impacts. To combat climate change, hydropower will be a necessary part of the U.S. energy mix because it is both greenhouse gas emissions free and a relatively simple and reliable way to produce clean energy.
- Hydropower is a renewable energy source powered by water and can be relied on to provide electricity 24/7.
- Hydropower provides almost 7% of the power produced within the United States.
- Although hydropower plants are expensive to build, they provide cheap power once in operation.
Geothermal energy pros and cons
There are many considerations that come with geothermal power. Even as a renewable energy source, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of geothermal energy to better understand how it can fit into the greater energy mix.
Top pros and cons of geothermal energy
Harnessing geothermal energy comes with some key advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Pros and cons of geothermal energy
|Pros of geothermal energy||Cons of geothermal energy|
|Reliable source of power||Location dependent|
|Small land footpring||High initial costs|
|Usable for large and small-scale installations||Can lead to surface instability|
On the pros side, geothermal energy is a reliable source of power that has a small land footprint compared to other renewable sources, and it can be harnessed at both large and small scales. On the cons side, geothermal power plants can only be built in certain locations, they are often expensive to build at first, and they can cause surface instability and earthquakes.
Below, we’ll explore these pros and cons in further detail.
Advantages of geothermal energy
Geothermal energy is a very reliable source of power
One of the biggest advantages of geothermal energy is that geothermal power is a very predictable and reliable source of energy, especially in comparison to other renewable energy resources like wind energy and solar energy. While wind and solar are more intermittent sources that require energy storage in order to be used most effectively at a large scale, geothermal power plants have a generally consistent power output no matter the time of day or season. This has many positive implications, notably that geothermal power is an appropriate source for meeting baseload energy demand.
Geothermal power plants have a small land footprint
Another advantage of geothermal power plants over other large-scale wind power, solar energy, or hydroelectric installations is the relatively low footprint of a geothermal plant. This is because, unlike wind, solar, and hydropower, geothermal energy comes from within the earth, and we don’t need to build out collection setups over large swaths of land surface to harness it. For reference, National Geographic estimates that a geothermal power plant capable of producing 1 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity would take up approximately 404 square miles of land surface, while a wind farm at the same energy output would need about 1,335 square miles, and a solar farm would need about 2,340 square miles. That’s 88 percent less space for a geothermal power plant compared to a solar farm, both sized at 1 GWh.
There are large-scale and small-scale applications for geothermal power
Geothermal energy isn’t just for large power plants; in fact, one of the most efficient ways to use heat from the earth is to harness it with a geothermal heat pump for a residential or commercial building. Unlike geothermal power plants, geothermal heat pumps take advantage of low-temperature geothermal reservoirs which are available just about everywhere.
Disadvantages of geothermal energy
Geothermal power plants can only be built at specific sites
Unfortunately, geothermal power plants can’t be built anywhere. Geothermal reservoirs above 100°C are usually necessary for most large geothermal plants, and these reservoirs are only found in specific locations, usually near tectonic plate boundaries or hot spots. This is why the vast majority of U.S. geothermal power plants are in California: the state lies close to an active fault zone that is part of the larget “ring of fire” around the Pacific Ocean. Other parts of the country have lower temperature geothermal resources readily available, however, power plants are often not feasible.
Geothermal facilities have high upfront construction costs
The cost of deploying geothermal power plants is heavily skewed towards early expenses, as there are no fuel purchasing costs once the plant is up and running. According to Lazard’s LCOE analysis, the upfront cost to build a geothermal energy plant is between $4,000 and $6,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Utility-scale solar energy maxes out at $1,250/kWh, and wind maxes out at $1,550/kWh, making geothermal electricity significantly more expensive upfront than other common renewable options. Even compared to combined-cycle gas plants, geothermal energy is four to six times as expensive initially.
The high upfront development costs associated with geothermal power plants is largely a function of the difficulty and cost of drilling deep into the earth to access geothermal reservoirs.
Geothermal plants can cause earthquakes
Constructing a geothermal power plant involves drilling deep within the earth to release hot steam and/or water trapped in rock formations. This process has been known to cause instability underground, which can lead to earthquakes at the surface of the earth. Additionally, geothermal power plants can cause slow land subsidence over time as geothermal reservoirs are depleted.
11 Pros and Cons of Solar Energy to Consider in 2021
Wanna Go Solar? Consider These Advantages and Disadvantages
As a solar-powered electricity provider, Chariot Energy often hears all sorts of claims and questions about solar energy:
- “Solar energy is great for the environment!”
- “…wait, now people are saying solar energy is bad for the environment?”
- “Well, the news told me you don’t actually save money with solar energy…”
- “…or do you?”
- “Ah, what you’re actually saving is the planet… right?”
With this article, we want to settle this squabble and finally clear the air about solar energy. Yes, there are many advantages to solar power, such as its ability to lower your carbon footprint and lessen the strain on the electrical grid. But, admittedly, solar also has its limitations, such as the inability to generate electricity at night and the difficulty of relocating solar panels once they’re installed.
Let’s explain the principal pros and cons of this clean energy resource. We can help you decipher whether it’s worth the investment or simply educate you about this awesome power source!
The Top 11 Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
|Benefits of Solar Energy||Disadvantages of Solar Energy|
|Reduces your carbon footprint||Solar installations can be expensive|
|Saves money on your electricity bills||Doesn’t generate electricity at night|
|You receive federal assistance for solar panels||Difficult to move once installed|
|Generates electricity anywhere on Earth||Solar energy storage is costly|
|Lessens the strain on the electric grid||Requires rare earth metals|
|You can sell back your excess solar energy|
The Top 6 Advantages of Solar Energy
1. Solar Energy Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
Whether you know it or not, generating electricity produces a lot of carbon emissions. In the United States, electricity generation from fossil fuels accounts for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. Known as “brown power,” this coal- and natural gas-powered electricity enters the grid to provide your home with electricity.
Solar energy systems carve out a giant slice of the greenhouse gas emissions pie and replace it with clean energy. Photovoltaic technologies (solar panels) like we use at Chariot and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants both produce this clean energy, making them the two most environmentally friendly energy sources we have today. Thus, when you power your home with solar energy, you’re reducing your entire household’s carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.
At the end of 2020, the U.S. had 97.7 GWdc of solar generation capacity online, having installed more than 19 gigawatts (GWdc) just in the past year. That’s enough to power nearly 18 million American homes. In terms of emissions, the number of carbon emissions the U.S. solar energy reduces is equal to the amount of carbon stored in 2 billion trees.
That’s 2,000,000,000 trees.
2. Solar Energy Can Save You Money
While the cost of solar panel systems are declining, installing solar panels is still a significant investment. However, because solar energy is essentially free, the system will pay for itself and save you money on your electricity bill for literal decades! This savings is in the form of a significantly lower or no electricity bill at all.
In approximately 8 years after installation, your solar panel system will have completely paid for itself by providing free electricity to your home. After that, you’ll begin to earn money by simply doing nothing other than having solar panels. And these solar cells often last decades — around 25 to 30 years, on average.
There are also leasing options available for those who want to try solar panels out but do not want to buy just yet.
3. Solar Investment Tax Credits (ITC) are Available for Solar Energy Installations
In 2006, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act, which created the Solar Investment Tax Credit. Known as the ITC, this very subsidy gave rise to the massive solar industry you see today. Since the ITC was passed, the U.S. solar industry has grown by more than 10,000%, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created, and billions of dollars have been injected into the economy. All because of a tax rebate!
In 2019, the tax credit was 30%, and like wind credits, the government has plans to wind the tax credit down. However, it has been extended by two years since 2019 for residential customers. Today, the ITC is 26% off the taxes of any solar installation, from a small-scale rooftop array to a large-scale utility solar farm that powers thousands of homes. By 2024, ITC credit will only be available for utility-scale solar projects.
There’s no need to worry right now. You can still take advantage of this money-saving opportunity by investing in a home solar system that will pay for itself in a few years — or take advantage of the credits right now and switch to a solar electricity plan.
4. Solar Energy Can Generate Electricity in Any Climate
Despite hearsay, one of the great benefits of solar panels is they work anywhere and in any climate on Earth. Whether it’s rain, snow, light hail, sleet or even a hurricane, solar panels still generate electricity if even a slight amount of sunlight hits the panel.
In fact, snow is actually beneficial to solar panel efficiency. While heavy snowfall can present a weight problem for solar panels, light to moderate snow has actually proven to slide the dirt, grime and debris off of the panels as it melts. Plus, solar panels are more efficient in cold weather, meaning that they are able to generate more electricity with greater effectiveness than solar arrays in hotter areas
5. Solar Energy Lessens the Strain on the Electric Grid
The power grid is really complex, but underpinning the entire system is the simple economic principle of supply and demand. Supply must always meet the demand, but there are times when demand is greater than the amount of electricity the grid has to give. If demand overtakes supply, long-term damage and widespread blackouts can occur.
That’s why solar energy is so important to diversifying the energy grid. If any one energy source fails, as was seen in the February 2021 Texas energy crisis, having a wide variety of energy sources is one answer to preventing power failures like we saw.
As of March 2021, the U.S. has enough solar capacity to power 17.1 million homes, approximately 2.3% of the total U.S. share of utility-scale electricity. We clearly still have a long way to go. However, over the coming years, it’s only going to get bigger, with the U.S. Energy Information as of April 2021 estimating that solar will rise by 16.1 GW in 2021 and 5.8 GW in 2022.
6. Get Paid by Selling Excess Solar Energy to the Grid
Solar power generators like Chariot help lessen the strain on the energy grid by adding electricity when it’s needed most to prevent blackouts. What you may not know is that residents with solar panels can also help the grid — and get compensated for it!
Depending on the state you live in, you have the option of net metering. When your home is “net metered,” you can be compensated by your utility company if your solar panels produce more electricity than your home needed at that time. Chariot, for example, buys the excess energy from our customers’ solar panels. Our customers get paid in the form of bill credits.
The Top 5 Disadvantages of Solar Energy
While we believe solar energy has the power to transform our world, we realize it’s not perfect. We want to discuss a few of the important cons to consider.
1. Solar Panel Installations Can Be Expensive
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, investing in home solar panels is a bit like buying a car. Rooftop solar panels are a sizable investment. But, if you do your research, test drive a few, and make a smart and informed decision, your investment will provide great returns for many years.
However, for some, the end result might not be worth the investment of time and money, which is totally understandable. Even with the reduced 26% investment tax credit (ITC) credit, the average price a solar installer will charge for a 10 kWh system in 2021 is about $20,000.
This is why we offer solar electricity plans for people who still want to benefit from going solar but can’t afford the initial cost of installing panels.
2. Solar Energy Doesn’t Work at Night
“Thanks, Captain Obvious!” But seriously, you have to consider the reality that your rooftop solar panels won’t create electricity at night. Yes, a tiny fraction of sunlight is reflected off of the moon and absorbed into the solar panels, but it’s essentially pitch black at night. And when there’s no light, solar panels don’t produce electricity.
This becomes especially relevant if you want to be completely “off the grid” and have your home 100% powered by solar panels. If you aren’t tied to the electric grid, you need energy storage devices (the most common being a lithium-ion battery) to house the energy your solar panels produced earlier in the day so you have power at night. Otherwise, you’ll be lighting oil lamps to illuminate your home.
3. Solar Energy Storage is Expensive
Here’s the hard reality: Energy storage devices for rooftop solar panels cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Perhaps the most advanced product on the market today, Tesla’s Powerwall costs around $7,200 as of April 2021 for one solar battery — and how many you need depends on your current electricity bills Additionally, Tesla only sells the Powerwall to those who also buy solar panels.
The reason why solar storage and energy storage in general is so expensive is that it’s uncharted territory. In 2010, you would have paid $40,000 for an average residential solar system, whereas today—the price is half that. We’re optimistic that 10 years from now, solar storage along with the panels themselves will cost even less than they are today.
This is why most rooftop solar owners currently opt for a net metering setup. With this arrangement, your retail electricity provider agrees to buy excess solar power off your hands. Chariot Energy happens to be one of those providers! During peak generating hours, the excess solar energy you generate and don’t use is added to the grid. In turn, your electricity company will pay you for the energy you supplement to your local area.
4. Solar Panels are Difficult to Move Once Installed
Technically speaking, you could transfer your solar panels to your new home. But realistically, this almost never happens. Why? Because solar panels are custom-tailored to fit your roof, so moving them to a new location doesn’t make sense.
In most cases of people moving to a new home, the value of solar panels they had installed is tacked onto the home price. One study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed that an average solar array increases home value by $15,000. So, even though you would have to break up with your beloved solar panels, they’ll practically pay for the next set you install on your new home.
5. Some Solar Panels Use Rare Earth Metals
The name “rare earth metals” is a bit misleading — these elements are actually in ample supply. However, it’s the extracting of these elements for use in wind turbines and solar cells that has negative impacts on the environment and the humans that mine them.
Additionally, these rare earth elements carry a political weight to them. From 2014 to 2017, China supplied the U.S. with 80% of its rare earths imports. These materials, which are critical to the creation of most modern technology, have the potential to play a giant role in shaping economies around the world.
Luckily, leading technology companies, such as Apple, are exploring methods to recycle these rare earth elements to maintain a steady supply, which keeps costs from inflating because of ever-increasing demand.
Is Solar Energy Worth the Investment?
Chariot Energy is a solar power company, so of course we’d say yes! But we also know this isn’t always the case for everyone. You have to consider these pros and cons and determine for yourself whether you want to go solar.
And remember that rooftop solar systems are not the only option you have! While it may seem like the most popular option, there are so many other ways you can go solar. Take our solar electricity plans, for example. Chariot Energy offers 100% solar energy plans for those with or without panels. We make the going green part easy — without having to spend a ton of green.
Pros and Cons of Wind Energy (Wind Power)
Like solar energy, wind energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the world, with the United States aiming to produce 20 percent of its electricity by wind power by 2030. There is no doubt from the fact that wind energy is going to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas in the coming decade, but to which extent can only be speculated in.
It is a renewable and clean source of energy that doesn’t generate any greenhouse gases.114.5KLandmark ruling orders Shell to deepen CO2 cuts
Wind doesn’t cost anything, and therefore operational costs are close to zero once a turbine starts running. Research efforts in the field of technology are going on to address the challenges to make wind power cheaper and viable alternative for individuals and businesses to generate power. On the other hand, many governments offer tax incentives to create growth for the wind energy sector.
The fuel in the earth will be exhausted in a thousand or more years, and its mineral wealth, but man will find substitutes for these in the winds, the waves, the sun’s heat, and so forth.
~ John Burroughs
If you are looking to get started with wind energy for your home, there are a lot of things that you need to consider. In this article, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of investing in wind energy for your home and/or business.
- Various Pros of Wind Energy
- 1. Wind Energy is a Clean Source of Power
- 2. Renewable Source
- 3. Wind Energy has Low Operating Costs
- 4. Cost-Effective
- 5. Prices are Decreasing
- 6. Extra Savings for Land Owners
- 7. Use of Modern Technology
- 8. Wind Power Has Seen Rapid Growth
- 9. Huge Market Potential
- 10. Great Potential for Residential Uses
- 11. Wind Farms can be Built on Existing Farms
- 12. Conserves and Keeps Water Clean
- 13. The Wind Energy Industry Creates Jobs
- Various Cons of Wind Energy
- Uses of Wind Energy
Various Pros of Wind Energy
1. Wind Energy is a Clean Source of Power
The production of wind energy is “clean.” Unlike using coal or oil, creating energy from the wind doesn’t pollute the air or require any destructive chemicals. As a result, wind energy lessens our reliance on fossil fuels from outside nations as well, which boosts our national economy and offers a variety of other benefits as well.
2. Renewable Source
The wind is free. In the event that you live in a geological area that gets a lot of wind, it is ready and waiting. As a renewable asset, wind can never be drained like other regular, non-renewable assets.
The expense of delivering wind energy has dropped fundamentally lately, and as it becomes more popular with the general population, it will just continue to be cheaper. You will recover the expense of obtaining and introducing your wind turbine over time.
Winds are caused by rotation of the earth, heating of the atmosphere by the sun, and earth’s surface irregularities. We can harness wind energy and use it to generate power as long as the sun shines and the wind blows.
3. Wind Energy has Low Operating Costs
Wind turbines can give energy to numerous homes. You don’t actually have to possess a wind turbine, keeping in mind the end goal to harvest the profits; you can buy your power from a service organization that offers wind energy for a specific area. That means you don’t even necessarily have to invest any cash in order to reap the benefits of wind energy for your home or business.
5. Prices are Decreasing
Prices have decreased by over 80% since 1980. Thanks to technological advancements and increased demand, prices are expected to keep decreasing in the foreseeable future.
6. Extra Savings for Land Owners
Landholders who rent area to wind homesteads can make a considerable amount of additional cash, and wind energy likewise makes new employments in this developing engineering field.
Government organizations will also pay you if they can install wind turbines on your land. Also, in some cases, the electric company may wind up owing to you.
If you produce more power than you require from wind power, it may go into the general electric matrix, which in turn will make you some extra cash. A win all around!Sponsored by Advertising PartnerSponsored VideoWatch to learn more
7. Use of Modern Technology
Wind turbines are considered by some to be incredibly attractive. The newest models don’t look like the clunky, rustic windmills of old times. Instead, they are white, slick, and modern looking. That way, you don’t have to worry about them becoming an eyesore on your land.
The latest advances in technology have transformed preliminary wind turbine designs into extremely efficient energy harvesters. Turbines are available in a wide range of sizes for farms, factories, and large private residences, extending the market with many different types of businesses and by individuals for use at home on larger plots and other plots of land.
Portable wind turbines are also available and can power small devices on the go. The latest models will generate even more electricity, require less maintenance, and run more quietly and safely.
8. Wind Power Has Seen Rapid Growth
Wind energy has seen enormous growth in the last decade. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, cumulative wind power capacity increased by an average of 30% per year. Wind energy accounts for about 2.5% of the total worldwide electricity production.
Wind turbines are available in various sizes, which means a vast range of people and businesses can take advantage of it to produce power for their own use or sell it to the utility to reap some profits.Sponsored by Advertising PartnerSponsored VideoWatch to learn more
9. Huge Market Potential
The potential for wind power is huge. Several independent research teams have reached the same conclusions, and that is the worldwide potential of wind power is more than 400 TW (terawatts). Harnessing wind energy can be done almost anywhere.
10. Great Potential for Residential Uses
The wind energy is especially appealing to the residential market. People are able to generate their own electricity with wind power in very much the same manner as people do with the best solar panels (photovoltaic).
Wind is an independent energy source, and it’s great for powering homes. In addition to this, wind-powered homeowners also gain access to something called net metering.Net metering basically provides credit to electricity bills for any excess power generated in a given month.
Homeowners actually get paid for extra energy production, and that can even protect them from blackouts as well as fluctuating energy prices.
11. Wind Farms can be Built on Existing Farms
Wind turbines are incredibly space-efficient and can be installed on existing farms or agricultural land in rural areas where it can be a source of earning for the farmers as wind plant owners make payments to farmers for the use of their land for electricity generation. It doesn’t occupy much space, and farmers can continue to work on the land.
At present, less than 1.5% of contiguous U.S. land area is used by wind power plants. However, if all the plains and cattle land made available on the interior of the country, there’s a lot of opportunity for expansion if landowners and government land managers are up for it.
12. Conserves and Keeps Water Clean
Turbines produce no particulate emissions that contribute to mercury contamination in our lakes and streams. Wind energy also conserves water resources. For producing the same amount of electricity, nuclear power take about 600 times more water than wind, and coal takes about 500 times more water than wind.
13. The Wind Energy Industry Creates Jobs
The wind energy industry has boomed since wind turbines became commercially viable. As a result of this, the industry has created jobs all over the world. Jobs now exist for the manufacturing, installation, maintenance of wind turbines, and there are even jobs in wind energy consulting.
According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy industry employed over 10 million people worldwide in 2017. Of these jobs, 1.15 million were in the wind power industry. China leads the way in providing over 500,000 of these jobs. Germany is in second place with around 150,000 jobs, and the United States is a close third with around 100,000 wind energy jobs.
Various Cons of Wind Energy
1. Wind Reliability
Wind doesn’t generally blow reliably, and turbines usually function at about 30% capacity or so. In the event that the weather is not going to support you, you may wind up without power (or at any rate you’ll need to depend on the electric company to take care of you during those times). Serious storms or high winds may cause harm to your wind turbine, particularly when they are struck by lightning.
2. Wind Turbines Could Be Threat to Wildlife
The edges of wind turbines can actually be unsafe for wildlife, especially birds and other flying creatures that may be in the area. There isn’t really a way to prevent this, but it’s definitely something that you want to make sure that you are aware of being possible consequences that may come up as a result of it.
3. Wind Turbines Could Lead to Noise and Visual Pollution
Wind turbines can be a total and complete pain to install and deal with on a regular basis. Wind turbines make a sound that can be between 50 and 60 decibels, and if you have to put it next to your home. Some individuals believe that wind turbines are ugly, so your neighbors may also complain about them.
While most people like how wind turbines look, few people like them but with NIMBY(“not in my backyard”) attitude, but for the rest, wind turbines remain unattractive as they have a concern that it may tarnish the beauty of landscapes.
4. Are Expensive to Set Up
The manufacturing and installation of wind turbines require heavy upfront investments both in commercial and residential applications. Wind systems can involve the transportation of large and heavy equipment, causing a large temporarily disturbed area near the turbines. Erosion is another potential environmental problem that can stem from construction projects.
Wind turbines and other supplies needed to make wind energy could be extremely costly in advance, and relying upon where you live, it might be hard to find someone to sell them to you and somebody who can maintain it over time.
5. Cost Trade-off
The cost-competitiveness of wind power is highly debatable. Both utility-scale wind farms and small residential wind turbines typically rely heavily on financial incentives. To give wind power a fair chance in the fierce competition against already well-established energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal, financial incentives are crucial.
Wind turbines make an excellent alternative in some situations for a homeowner who wants to become an energy producer, but it would require wind turbines about 10 kilowatts and $40,000 to $70,000 to become a net electricity producer. Investments like this typically break even after 10 to 20 years, which is a pretty long time.
6. Safety of People at Risk
Severe storms and high winds can cause damage to the blades of the wind turbines. The malfunctioned blade can be a safety hazard to the people working nearby. It may fall on them, causing life term physical disability or even death in certain cases.
7. Wind Power Can Be Harnessed at Certain Locations Only
Wind energy can only be harnessed at certain locations where the speed of the wind is high. Since they are mostly set up in remote areas, transmission lines have to be built to bring the power to the residential homes in the city, which requires extra investment to set up the infrastructure.
8. Shadow Flicker
Shadow flicker occurs when the blades of the rotor cast a shadow as they turn. Research has shown the worst-case conditions would affect, by way of light alteration, neighboring residents a total of 100 minutes per year, and only 20 minutes per year under normal circumstances. Designers of wind farms avoid placing turbines in locations where shadow flicker would be a problem for any significant amount of time.
9. Effect on the Environment
It obliges a ton of open area to set up wind turbines and chopping down trees kind of eliminates the whole green thing that you’re trying to do with them. Places that may be good for it may be difficult to get to and use. Consistency with city codes and mandates may be irksome when you are attempting to install a wind turbine. Sometimes, height confinements may keep you from installing one on your property as well.
10. The Land where the Best Wind Is Located Is Also Known as Tornado Alley
As you can see a vast majority of the land where the highest consistent winds are located is also where tornadoes like to strike.
Uses of Wind Energy
The wind is a unique resource because we interact with it every minute. It has been harnessed since ancient times, and it is the most eco-friendly source of energy around. It has a wide range of uses. You may be familiar with a few, but others may totally catch you by surprise. Enough said, let’s drive through the most innovative uses of wind energy:
1. Wind energy can be used to power vehicles
In the course of your research, you must have run across wind-powered vehicles. If you haven’t, then know that there are vehicles powered chiefly by the wind. A typical example is the widely documented wind-powered car that completed a 3100-mile journey through Australia.
Although it wasn’t totally powered by wind, it’s a perfect example of how vehicles can be moved by alternative sources of energy. Precisely, the car used a combination of batteries, wind, and kite. For the entire journey, the car used an estimated $10 to $15 of energy, which underlines the cost-effective nature of wind energy.
2. Excellent source of power
Electricity is the main source of energy worldwide. Due to the abundance of electricity, almost every device produced is powered by electricity. The traditional way of electricity generation is the use of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal. These fossil fuels emit greenhouse gasses and other harmful substances that pollute the environment.
Wind energy provides a reprieve from the dangerous gasses emitted to the atmosphere. The wind energy is captured using strategically located wind turbines. This can be carried out on a massive scale, for example, wind turbines installed on wind farms. It can be a small scale, for instance, wind turbines installed by individuals to produce energy for home use.
3. Sailing Cargo ships
A typical example of the use of wind energy is the cargo ships developed by Cargill, Inc., an American corporation that is committed to making the world grow by innovating cutting-edge technologies. Cargill has scaled up and fully embraced the idea of installing a huge kite on one of its cargo ships to harness wind power.
The project is geared towards cutting back on the consumption of fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. We all know that wind power has been used over the centuries to power sailing and smaller vessels, but innovators have taken it up a notch to assist drive cargo ships.
4. Wind energy can be used in sports
For countless years, wind power has been utilized to power some breathtaking sports such as windsurfing, sailing, kite flying, hang-gliding, kitesurfing, wind skiing, Para-sailing, and much more.
5. Wind power can be used to pump water
Utilizing wind power to pump water from underground is not a new technology. It has been used since ancient times. It’s a cheap alternative for some countries and communities. Essentially, there are no extraordinary costs involved compared to using huge pumping tracks powered by fossil fuel sources of energy.
With many people shifting to green lifestyles and the need to live in areas with fresh air devoid of greenhouse gasses, wind energy is set to dominate the energy sector in the years to come. It’s clean, renewable, and cheap once wind harnessing technologies are in place.
20 Critical Pros and Cons of Oil Energy
The process of bringing Oil to the surface for us to use is called oil drilling, this creates many Pros and Cons of Oil Energy. Before drilling for there are many geographical tests to be done to determine the size of the oil reservoirs. Oil can also be extracted from other resources, such as tar and shale. Once it is refined, Oil can be used to produce energy to power cities, run vehicles, and different types of machinery. Oil has been at the center of controversy for the effects on the environment. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of oil energy. Learn about most advantages, disadvantages, negatives, benefits that using oil energy is associated with.
Pros of Oil Energy
1. Oil Laid the Foundation for Renewable Energy.
Because of the technological advances of Oil over the years, we are now able to look into other sources of clean energy, such as solar and wind. The oil industry has laid the foundations of continuing efforts to find a clean source of energy. This can be attributed to the fact that our generation saw that we are using a source of energy that is not renewable, and need to find alternatives for the long-term survival of our species. Researches and leaders saw the need for a clean source of energy that would be sustainable for future generations, and as such, there is continued research and development into discovering and developing these sources of clean energy. In addition to the finite amount of Oil that we have (which spurred the need for finding other sources of energy), we can also attribute Oil to the construction of wind turbines and solar panel arrays.
2. Oil is Cheap.
The energy that is produced by using Oil is cheap and relatively easy to transport over long distances. This makes it easy to provide power to rural and more remote areas where other sources of energy may not be available. Even though it is a flammable resource, and there is some element of danger associated with it, Oil is relatively easy to transport, because it is still just a liquid. Oil is cheaper than ever considering the technological advances that we have been able to make over the years in the industry. Oil is far less expensive to extract and refine today than it has been in the past, and this can be attributed to the fact that due to technological advances, we can extract Oil using offshore oil rigs in addition to oil drilling in tar sands. Because through trial and error, we have perfected the means to extract and refine oil into usable products.
3. The Oil Industry Produces Jobs
Due to the importance and scope of the oil industry, it provides millions of jobs to Americans. While these jobs may pay very well, there is a certain amount of danger that is involved, however. These jobs do pay very well, and there are thousands of available, but that comes with a cost. Every day that someone works on transporting, drilling, or refining oil, they run the risk of serious bodily harm or not coming home at all.
4. Oil Goes a Long Way.
A little amount of Oil can yield a large amount of usable energy. This is a major plus considering how much Oil we consume daily and the fact that it is not a renewable resource. Even though we do consume vast amounts of Oil daily, it simply goes to show how important it is to have a source of energy that can eventually replace Oil.
5. Oil is Cleaner than Coal.
In regards to greenhouse emissions, Oil is cleaner than coal (but not as clean as renewable sources of energy like solar). Also, Oil is cheaper to convert into energy and use in today’s modern world. This has been a great boon to our environment, as it is not only cheaper but better for our planet.
6. Not Renewable, but Reliable.Although Oil is not a renewable source of energy, it is a reliable one. Unlike solar energy, we do not rely on any other aspect of nature to continue drilling, refining, and using Oil (as long as the oil reservoirs are not dry). Because power stations are not reliant on factors such as sunlight or the amount of wind present, they can constantly work using Oil. This means that as long as a power station has Oil, they can continuously work to produce electricity for us to use.
7. Easy to Extract.
Because we have been doing this for so long, the process of extracting Oil is now relatively easy; especially compared to what it was many years ago. There are many ways now that we can extract Oil, and it is not only limited to drilling deep within the earth to acquire this resource. While drilling in the earth and offshore are still very viable options, and the most common, it is now possible to extract Oil by surface collection. These methods have been used for many years now, and have proven themselves to be very viable ways to collect Oil.
8. Oil Energy is Adaptable.
Unlike other sources of energy such as solar and wind, the energy produced by Oil can adapt to the needs of the consumer. As we are aware, there are times of the year that will either be much cooler or warmer than others. During these “peak seasons,” the need for electricity is higher than it would normally be. Renewable energy does not simply produce more just because we need it to, but energy from Oil can be used for these peak seasons to provide us with the necessary amount of energy to live comfortably.
9. Oil is Good for the Economy.
The economic aspect of our generation has roots in the oil industry. Because of this, other industries such as farming and agriculture have been able to thrive due to the use of Oil to power their vehicles and machines. In addition to using Oil as a source of energy, there is a multitude of other ways that we utilize this resource, such as the production of plastic and petroleum.
10. Oil is Global.
Oil is universal and can be accessed at a multitude of locations across the globe. This is not only great news for those regions that are more remote, but it removes the need for humans to fight over this resource (as much). And because it is easily transported through tankers and pipelines, we can all enjoy this resource and the quality of life that it brings to us.
11. Substantial Dense Energy.
Oil is one of the few energy resources that are not only substantial but also has a high energy density. Because of this, it is the resource of choice to power heavy machines and vehicles such as planes and factories. A small amount of oil has been proven to be able to provide a lot of energy for us.
12. Ability to Safely Invest in Oil.
Because Oil is something that everyone currently needs to maintain their lives comfortably, any investors can confidently and safely invest in the oil industry. Oil is something that is a sound investment, and it isn’t going anywhere soon.
Cons of Oil Energy
1. Oil is non-Renewable.
The resources that we use to extract and refine oil are not renewable and will run day run dry. This can lead to rationing the oil supply or eventually not being able to use Oil at all. The more oil consumed as a civilization today means less for future generations. This is one reason that we must start to look for alternative sources of energy, such as solar and wind. The majority of Oil is extracted from fossils that are found deep within the Earth, and although it is possible for more fossils to create Oil, that would take millions of years to do so. Although right now, we can continue to use Oil for energy and other products for consumers, that will not last forever. It is a possibility that the oil reservoirs will run dry in the not too distant future. Decades ago, it was believed that around now would be the time that we would run out of Oil. Thankfully oil reservoirs are being discovered still, but there is no telling how long that can last.
2. Oil is Not Good for the Environment.
Oil is high in pollutants, and is bad overall for the environment, more than just the amount of emissions that oil refineries put out into the air. Due to the process of refining oil, gasses such as Carbon Monoxide and Sulfur Dioxide are released into the atmosphere. These gases have been proven to be linked directly to allergies and diseases that plague the planet. In addition to the emissions that are released from the oil refineries, we also run the risk of oil spills that can cause major negative effects on the environment and our water supply. Because of the need for our generation to have and consume Oil and byproducts of Oil, there is the need to have numerous refineries. With these refineries come the risk of oil spills, which occur fairly often across the globe.
3. The Oil Industry corruption.
It is believed that the oil industry is corrupt, and is one that monopolizes on our need for a source of energy. Also, because oil and fossil fuel, in general, is not a renewable resource, humans will compete for this valuable resource. Something that is referred to as “oil money” is a very real thing, and as a society, we have lived comfortably and profited from the money that the oil industry has provided. And as we know, when large amounts of money are involved, corruption isn’t far behind. As a result, some conflicts can arise, and history has proven this to be a fact.
4. Oil is Dangerous Work.
Working in the oil industry can be a dangerous career path, and oil refineries are prone to accidents that can be catastrophic. There are many accidents regularly that occur in or near oil drilling sites and refineries, and some of these have been fatal for the employees that are present on site. This is also true of oil transport, and there have been many reported deaths on the road during the transportation of Oil as well. One reason that jobs in the oil industry pay well is that there is a certain amount of danger involved. For instance, in an incident that occurred back in 2014, over 140 people were killed while working.
5. Oil Fumes are Bad for Our Health.
There has been a multitude of health issues that people face, which can be attributed to the fumes that are produced around oil refineries. Some may be considered to be small such as fatigue and allergies, although there have been cases of more severe cases wherein people have been ailed by arrhythmia and even been placed into a coma. While not as severe as radiation sickness, it is still worth noting.
6. Acid Rain.
As we have gone over, Carbon Dioxide can be an unfortunate byproduct of refining oil, in addition to other harmful gasses and toxins released into the air. Sometimes an acidic reaction can occur if the circumstances are just right and produce the terrifying phenomenon know as acid rain. This happens when high temperatures oxidize nitrogen. When this nitrogen comes into contact with sulfur in regions containing Oil, bodies of water now contain high amounts of acid, including rain.
7. Oil can Create Harmful Products.
In addition to the chemicals and gasses that can be released into the atmosphere from Oil, some of the products that Oil can be used to create can also have a devastating impact on the environment. We have all seen what plastic can do to the Oceans and aquatic life on earth, and Oil is used to create these products. And not only that, but over time plastic can turn toxic, which will affect the environment. Although plastic is convenient, it is harmful because it takes a very long time to decompose and break down naturally.
8. Drilling can be Dangerous.
We’ve gone over how working on a refinery can be dangerous, but the same can be said for working on a drilling or extraction site. Many different accidents can occur, and anyone who has seen the blockbuster “There Will be Blood” can understand just how dangerous this job can be. There can be explosions, and many deaths have been reported from those working on oil drilling sites.
These Pros and Cons of Oil are because of How Oil is Used to Produce Energy
Before getting into how Oil is used to create energy to power our cities and rural regions, it is important to know what Oil is, and where it comes from. Oil is a very important resource for our civilization, and it is extracted mainly and naturally from fossil fuels using heat and pressure. This is done by fossils being found beneath the earth, and over time these fossils undergo massive amounts of both heat and pressure. Over time, they become Oil, which is then extracted from the earth using (very) heavy machinery to bring it to the surface.
The Oil that is brought to the surface is what we call “crude oil,” and this only means that the Oil is in its natural, unrefined state. Once it is refined in an oil refinery, we can then use it for consumer’s needs, such as in gasoline, kerosene, asphalt, and other chemical reagents. So you see, Oil can be used for much more than simply a source of electricity.
In its natural state, Oil is not inherently useful and must be refined with a process in an oil refinery. This process is referred to as combustion, wherein we utilize plants and engines, Oil is consumed and turned into usable energy. In this process, machines, equipment, and other technologies are used to ignite the Oil. By using a pipe and burner, the Oil is heated and in the pipe creates steam that is then converted into usable energy. However, one side effect of this method is the production of both Carbon Monoxide and Sulfur Dioxide, which are very bad for the environment, and the health of those who are consistently around these gasses.
Currently, Oil is a resource that we desperately need for the continuation of our society. As with any form of electrical resource, there are many pros and cons associated with Oil. As of right now, it is our main source of energy and one that has been great for the products that it creates and our overall quality of life. With continued research and development, it is the hope that shortly we will have a clean source of energy that is readily available and sustainable.
For now, we can continue to use this resource with the understanding that oil reservoirs can run dry, and there is no way of knowing when this could happen. It is important to find another source of clean energy that will sustain our needs, but for now, it is a good idea to be educated on the facts about using Oil as a resource for energy.
13 Pros and Cons of Coal Energy
In March 2017, President Donald Trump lifted a moratorium that had been in place for Federal coal leases granted by the United States. Lifting this moratorium allowed for companies to begin excavating this fossil fuel from public lands so that more coal energy could be produced.
The advantage of using coal energy is that it is usually a cost-effective resource. The current stockpiles of coal can provide the world with more than a century of energy, while US-based coal reserves could last over 400 years. With coal, we know that we have energy available through an infrastructure that supports its delivery.
The disadvantage of using coal energy is its potential damage to the environment. Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere in large quantities when coal is combusted for fuel. Additional emissions are released through the mining and delivery processes. This power resource could be changing how our planet is able to function.
Here are additional pros and cons of coal energy to think about.
The Pros of Coal Energy
1. The availability of coal makes it very affordable.
Beyond the stockpiles of coal that have already been mined, there is an estimated global reserve of this fossil fuel that could be more than 1 trillion tons. Whereas other fossil fuels, at current consumption levels and without any new deposit discoveries, will not last the century, coal gives us security in knowing that our current society and lifestyle has the potential of being around for many years to come.
2. The energy infrastructure supports coal.
Combusting coal has been a method of energy generation for more than two centuries. Even before the industrial sector discovered ways to harness the power that coal energy possesses, homes and businesses were throwing coal into fireplaces to warm their buildings. Engineers would throw coal into boilers to create steam energy for transportation. Our infrastructure was built around the idea that coal would fuel it.
3. The cost of coal is quite cheap.
The price of a ton of coal can be about as much as it would cost a family of four to have lunch somewhere. Because this fuel resource is so inexpensive, the power it produces and gets consumed is also relatively inexpensive. For many areas, coal is just a few cents per kilowatt hour, making the energy resource available to virtually everyone. It can be called upon at any time.
5. Clean coal technologies help to limit the emissions that are released.
As of 2017, coal energy is responsible for about 50% of the electricity being generated in the United States. Thanks to clean coal technologies, many of the emissions which are released during the combustion phase of this resource can be captured. This limits the potential damage to the environment and atmosphere while maintaining current infrastructures.
6. It can be converted into different forms of fuel.
Coal can be converted into a gas or into a liquid. When this process has been completed, coal energy burns cleaner than it would if the natural resource were being burned in its natural state. That is due to the fact that the particulate counts are reduced through this conversion process without compromising the high load factor that is generated.
The Cons of Coal Energy
1. The mining of coal destroys natural habitats.
To remove coal from the ground, various mining processes are used that destroy the natural habitat in that region. Part of that destruction involves the potential pollution of groundwater tables and the removal of trees. There is also the added danger of having a fire begin in a coal mine. A coal seam fire in New Castle, CO has been burning for more than 120 years.
2. Clean coal technologies aren’t without cost.
When looking at the process of carbon capture and storage, the technologies to convert current coal-fired plants to clean coal could greatly increase the energy costs for individual consumers. LiveScience estimates that some carbon capture and storage technologies could increase the price of energy by up to 75%.
3. The technology relies on a finite resource.
Although there are large deposits and stockpiles of coal to produce energy in the world today, it is a fossil fuel. That means it is a finite resource. At some point in time, our societies must look for alternatives for energy production before this resource runs out. If it took 200 years to create our infrastructure on coal, a similar amount of time may be necessary to transition to other forms of energy.
5. The mining process for coal leaves behind environmental toxins.
Byproducts of coal mining including arsenic, sulfur dioxide, selenium, and mercury. Miners who inhale coal dust can develop a condition that is called Black Lung Disease, which can make it difficult for the person to breath and reduce their overall quality of life. In total, several million tons of unusable waste are produced annually because of coal energy and that stuff needs to go somewhere.
6. It produces radiation.
Coal energy, when burned at a coal-fired power plant, produces more outward radiation exposure than a nuclear power plant would produce. The emissions are also linked to increased levels of asthma and lung cancer for local populations compared to other forms of energy.
7. It doesn’t move us forward.
Although clean coal is a positive evolution in the field of coal energy, we are essentially using the same technologies that our forefathers developed in the industrial revolution.
The pros and cons of coal energy show us that this technology has had a positive impact on society in the past, but our future may lie elsewhere. Although it is an affordable resource and provides reliable power, the potential damage to the planet may outweigh many of the benefits that can be obtained.
I have discussed the most popular energy sources being utilized in our world, listing the pros and cons of each energy source. I feel that the answer to our energy woes is not a strict and dogmatic adherence to one system, be it fossil fuels or green new deal. We frankly don’t have the technology to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the foreseeable future, certainly while I am alive that is. The answer to our problems is a hybrid system utilizing all of our sources. However, one thing that can all agree is that we can’t keep on consuming our finite energy sources like there is no tomorrow. Solar and wind are not end all be all. They just are not reliable enough, as recent events in Texas showed us.
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