PRODUCING ELECTRICITY FOR THE AVERAGE HOUSHOLD IN THE U.S. REQUIRES BURNING 8,079 POUNDS OF COAL (roughly 4 tons)—AND USING 5,OOO GALLONS OF WATER (think of a gas tanker)
Being Irish, I tend to take water for granted. Unless matters have changed drastically (I have been away for a while), the skies over Ireland provide it to excess. Still, I am not unaware that water is in short supply in much of the world—and that we use it carelessly. I’m also concerned that, in the U.S. we contaminate it so much with medication that weird things are happening to fish—and probably to us.
The sexuality of fish is being screwed up. Could that be happening to humans too? It would explain a lot.
We don’t filter out medical waste from our water (we could and should). In fact, mostly, we don’t even test for it—even though, every year, much of our water supply becomes more and more medically polluted (and in other ways as well).
Virtually half the adult insured population up to 65 is on one or more medications and virtually all over 65 are on multiple meds. Human waste leads to medical waste and eventual contamination of our water. 320 million humans produce a lot of waste—and then there is a truly prodigious quantity of animal waste which is also heavily contaminated with meds. 80 percent of the antibiotic market is fed to animals—even if they are perfectly healthy—as a preventative measure (prophylactic is the correct term). That is causing more and more of us to become immune to antibiotics—a consequence which currently kills over 23,000 of us (and climbing) a year.
If we continue to use antibiotics so unnecessarily, we will all become immune to them with medical consequences which will be truly catastrophic.
Why don’t the FDA ban the practice—as is the case in many other countries? Because this is America where corporate power runs way ahead of the rights of individuals.
Nonetheless, I like water. I have even been known to drink it straight. It’s useful stuff.
Coal is also useful, but unpleasant to mine, transport, store, and use—so, as far as I am concerned, the less we consume the better. It is particularly worrying where air pollution is concerned. We mostly tend to ignore air pollution unless it is egregious—but it lowers the quality of life for all too many and kills a surprising number. In short, it is not a trivial problem—and it doesn’t have to be visible to be dangerous. You just have to breathe it. Of course you can decide not to, but that doesn’t have a good track record.
Coal may be less of a problem in the future. We seem to be paying attention to solar power at last. The costs have been coming down dramatically and the efficiency of panels has been improving. The next stage will be equipping homes and other buildings with batteries—and the increasing use of micro-grids.
So where will that leave your typical electric utility?
Solar is the deep blue at 32% in 2014. Above it is Natural Gas at 42% and Coal at 23%.
Do I care?
I rather think I do.
I was made environmentally aware at a very young age by my much loved grandmother—so I think about these things. For some weird reason, I find energy particularly fascinating. It’s a great story because something dramatic and unexpected is always happening—and energy touches on so much else.
The recent fall in the price of oil is a good example. Price swings were predictable, but I don’t know of many who anticipated such a dramatic drop.
On balance, I’m far from sure it is a good thing. The U.S. was just beginning to wean itself off its addiction to oil—and now there are all too many signs that it is reverting. Hopefully, it won’t where solar power is concerned.
Coal and oil based energy has been a bad news story for so long it is rather encouraging to see positive trends emerging—and who doesn’t like the sun?
The Irish, poor things, scarcely know it exists. Ireland is a beautiful country, but truly sunny days are rare phenomena.
VOR words 705.