The foes of renewable energy often bring up the fact that the renewable energy industry is subsidized and this is true. The fossil fuel industry (oil, gas, and coal industry), the nuclear power industry, and the renewable energy industry are all subsidized in various ways by government. The fossil fuel and nuclear power industries are also being subsidized in hidden ways, too, that will necessitate large future payments.
These overt and covert subsidies need be considered when discussing the economics of green, and in particular when discussing renewable energy..
The majority of us power our homes, including heating, cooling, and hot water production, with some type of fossil fuel. We power by natural gas, propane, or electricity that is produced by some form of fossil fuel such as coal or natural gas.
A large percentage of the electricity in Texas is produced by burning coal. Five of the top ten sources of air pollution in the state are from coal-fired electric power plants.
When we purchase fossil fuels, we do not pay an amount close to their entire cost. Because our taxes do subsidize the oil companies, for example, the true cost of gasoline is not charged at the pump..
This is somewhat ridiculous because the oil and gas industry has some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. If this industry paid its fair share of taxes, then we would all have lower tax rates while those people or companies which use the most fossil fuels and electricity would pay proportionately more for their use.
In addition, while paying few taxes themselves, the wealthy oil and gas industry largely influences how our tax dollars are spent through their lobbies and political contributions.
The general public does not generally understand this. In addition, many of the environmental costs of using fossil fuels are hidden from the ostrich-like public.
I think we all know burning fossil fuels releases carbon into the air. Many people are not aware that burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, also releases chemicals into the air that cause acid rain.
Acid rain is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides enter the air. They dissolve easily into water and are also carried by the wind. When they mix and react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form acidic pollutants, we know this as acid rain.
Acid rain damages nature such as crops, trees, lakes, rivers, and animals as well as damages many man-made objects such as homes, buildings and cars. The chemicals found in acid rain can even cause paint to peel or damage plants and animals that are essential parts of man’s food chain.
Burning coal also produces coal ash which has its own disposal and storage problems that we are not requiring industry to pay for or solve either.
The Energy Report 2008 prepared by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts states, "Of the 103 million tons of coal Texas consumed in 2006, 96 percent was used to generate electricity; the remainder was used for various industrial purposes. Coal is abundant and competitive with natural gas, the leading fuel source for electricity generation in Texas. But it also produces substantial amounts of atmospheric pollutants when burned.
"By volume, coal produces the highest emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphurous oxides, mercury and arsenic of any fuel, with the exception of high-sulfur fuel oil used in some older plants. Coal mining also can release methane, another greenhouse gas. In Texas, lignite coal deposits are below the surface and must be excavated. Subbituminous coal is shipped by rail from Wyoming and Montana to Texas.
"Texas lignite coal requires strip mining, which can cause erosion and disturb the surface for the life of the mine. Federal and state laws require reclamation of the soil when a surface mine closes. Traces of mercury, arsenic and other elements from coal can leach into the nearby soil and water."
When we burn any fossil fuels, health-harming pollutants are released into the air. We rarely require industry to use the best available technology to stop these pollutants or require them to clean them up. The resulting health problems cause our health insurance costs to escalate and taxes to rise to cover health care for children and others who can not pay for it themselves.
Cooks Children’s hospital announced in 2010 that Tarrant County had the highest asthma rate among children in Texas–over three times the average in Texas. "Thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking good care of us."
The environmental and health costs of drilling or mining for fossil fuels is becoming obvious to many North Texans as gas drilling causes more and more problems in our area.
By leaving our children and grandchildren to pay for the health and environmental consequences of the fossil fuel industry, we we are essentially subsidizing this industry in the present at the expense of future generations.
Immense quantities of water are required to produce electricity in nuclear power plants. According to EPA, when discharged, this water can contain pollutants such as heavy metals, potentially harming aquatic life and reducing water quality. In addition uranium mining can contaminate groundwater and surface water with heavy metals and traces of radioactive material.
Electricity produced in nuclear power plants generates one of the most toxic wastes humans have been able to produce to date. We don’t know how to safely deal with these wastes and are not certain that we will not be polluting ground water as well as air and soil, so, again, we will leave these problems to our children and grandchildren and many hundreds of years of descendants..
Will they say, "Thanks, Dad and Granddad. You are the true heroes."
Probably not. .
And how about Peak Oil?
Do you need an energy consultant, energy auditor, green builder, or green remodeler in North Central Texas or the Dallas-Fort Worth area? Are you purchasing or building a home? Ready to add renewable energy? Interested in living more sustainably? Contact Terry Jensen Frugal Energy, LLC 972 251-1532 or 817 443-2553 Just have a question or two? Please call. If I can answer without seeing your home or business, I will do so at no charge.
Green & Renewable Energy 972 251-1532 or 817 443-2553
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