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Shannon Fisk, staff attorney for the NRDC was quoted as having said, "The announcement shows what we have said all along: conventional, dirty coal is not economically or environmentally viable in today's world. It's too expensive, too polluting, and will stand in the way of the state's progress toward a renewed economy built up with cutting-edge green jobs."
First, coal is the most abundant energy source we have in the U.S. Universities and researchers around the world are developing methods to cleanup the emissions that result from burning coal. Mixing with biomass and other techniques can be applied to reduce the CO2 emissions. More technology is on the way. In nearly every state, the cost to produce electricity with coal is less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour.
What are the costs of renewable energy?
We don't have a very large base to gather real numbers as only about 1 percent or less of our energy is currently supplied from renewable sources. This is expected to grow to 15 to 20 percent over the next 5 to 10 years. I also wonder if the number we currently use are low-balled. For example, T. Boone Pickens has been on a roll with the help of Sen. Harry Reid in proposing natural gas and wind power. We do know what the costs using natural gas are but this is only supposed to be a temporary solution and we know it costs more than coal. September 2007, Pickens told the Wall Street Journal that his proposed project to build a wind farm would cost $6 billion. In April 2008, he told the Guardian in Britain that the cost would be $10 billion. That is a 67 percent increase in cost in just 8 months. By June 2008, the projected cost according to an interview with Pickens on the Living On Earth radio show, the cost increased another 20 percent to $12 billion. My search on the Internet turned up many numbers for wind cost at anywhere from 4 to 15 cents per kWh. According to gogreen.whatitcosts.com, residential wind turbines should supply energy at a cost of 10.7 cents per kWh. However, I also learned from other sites that unless you have a really big battery backup, a wind turbine will not supply enough energy on it own. The average home uses 10,000 kWh per year.
Solar is often touted as a sound choice. Again, you will need a large battery backup system for the night times. Cloudy skies can still allow some electrical generation. George Washington University recently held a symposium on using solar energy. The largest supplier of solar panels in the U.S. is First Solar. According to their presentation at the event, they have recently managed to get costs down to $1 per kWh. By the time you add in installation and other costs such as a 20 percent profit margin, the total cost is $2 per kWh.
According to Scientific American, geothermal may be less costly than coal. However, only 13 states have been identified as viable candidates to supply geothermal energy. The cost to install geothermal to supply electricity is too high for the average homeowner and can only be economically accomplished by a municipality. Also, there is some disagreement among scientists about what impact drawing heat from deep underground will have on the Earth in the long run, particularly in earthquake prone zones.
From this short study, it certainly seems to me that the better thing to do would be to continue research on getting our energy from a reliable and affordable source. Certainly research should continue and maybe one day we will be able to draw hydrogen from water or natural gas and use that in fuel cells. But that day is not today and forcing everyone to switch because it might be politically correct will bankrupt our society and drive our poor down even further. I suspect people are really going to be burned by their electrical and heating bills over the next few years.