Every week brings new claims that clean, free, inexhaustible renewable energy will soon replace the “dirty” fuels that sustain our economy today. A healthy dose of reality is needed.
Over half of our electricity comes from coal. Gas and nuclear generate 36% of our electricity. Barely 1% comes from wind and solar. Coal-generated power typically costs less per kilowatt hour than alternatives – leaving families with more money for food, housing, transportation and healthcare.
By 2020, the United States will need 100,000 megawatts of new electricity, say EIA, industry and utility company analysts. Unreliable wind power simply cannot meet these demands.
Wind farms require subsidies and vast stretches of land. To meet New York City’s electricity needs alone would require blanketing the entire state of Connecticut with towering turbines, according to Rockefeller University Professor Jesse Ausubel. They kill raptors and other birds, and must be backed up by expensive coal or gas power plants that mostly sit idle – but kick in whenever the wind dies down, so factories, schools, offices and homes don’t shut down.
On a scale sufficient to meet the electricity needs of a modern society, wind power is just not sustainable.
For three decades, US demand for natural gas has outpaced production. In fact, gas prices have tripled since 1998, to $13 per thousand cubic feet today, and every $1 increase costs US consumers an additional $22 billion a year.
With Congress and states locking up more gas prospects every year, this trend is likely to continue – further driving up prices and forcing us to import increasing amounts of expensive liquefied natural gas, often from less than friendly nations.
We simply cannot afford to halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants, though some are trying to do exactly that.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. masterminded and bankrolled anti-coal initiatives in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. The scheme was intended to drive up the price of natural gas, and thus profits, by making coal less available and more expensive – with little regard for poor families.
As Kansas discovered after its environmental chief blocked a proposed new coal generator, coal projects also come with transmission lines to carry intermittent wind-generated electricity and more reliable coal-generated power. Wind farms typically do not. Now a dozen Kansas wind projects are also on hold.