The partial replacement of coal with natural gas as the new fuel of choice for electricity production was a major shift away from environmentally destructive types of energy.
Used efficiently, natural gas produces just half the CO2 emissions of coal for every kilowatt hour of electricity created. Dangerous nitrogen oxides produced by burned natural gas are just five percent of what coal produces. Mercury and other heavy metals are essentially eliminated.
And, today, natural gas powers 40 percent of industrial activity in the U.S.—more than coal, and its use is growing rapidly.
It all happened in just 10 years, and consumers never noticed what was happening.
Same electricity as before, just twice as clean as the old fuel.
This conversion was huge for the children’s ecological future, the first big cut in coal’s waste in 200 years. Not only did it flatten out the climbing trend-line for CO2 emissions in the U.S., it illustrated just how quick industry can move to protect its economic best-interest.
That response is something we consumers must not lose sight of as we act to save the children from ecological ruin.
While natural gas is far cleaner than coal, it is not a clean fuel.
Even with the 50 percent cut in CO2 emissions, the half left over still overwhelms the biosphere with unsequestered CO2 and methane.
Natural gas is 97 percent methane, and methane is 86-times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Cornell University researchers have warned that methane released in the drilling (i.e., “fracking”) process could contribute more to global warming than an equivalent of burned coal by 2035.
That’s easy to comprehend with a little background.
In the community of Porter Ranch, California, in 2016, for example, a seven-inch diameter hole in an underground storage chamber let out 65,000 pounds of invisible natural gas per hour.
Industry personnel couldn’t plug the hole.
Thousands of local residents were forced from their homes. Children experienced headaches, bloody noses and vomiting. Planes couldn’t fly over the area for fear of sparking a conflagration. The governor declared a state of emergency.
One day’s worth of the leaking gas warmed the atmosphere as much as 4.5 million operating cars, Time Magazine reported.
And that was just one leak.
There are many others, the magazine noted.
The total of stored natural gas/methane in abandoned mines and underground rock formations comes to 3.6 trillion cubic feet. There is leakage at every site, plus leakage during the transport, distribution and handling processes.
Time reported that natural gas storage facilities alone, not counting transmission and end-user losses, “leak 100 billion cubic feet of methane each year—more than the entire country burns in a day.”
What We Don’t Know
Then there are health hazards associated with the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seems to have made a connection between hormone disruption in mammals and the chemically-laced liquid injected into subterranean rock strata to (a) release pockets of gas and oil and (b) to get rid of fracking waste.
Groundwater gets tainted with the contents of the propellant (barium, bromide, calcium, chloride, sodium, lithium, strontium and other undisclosed components), and bad things seem to happen, judging from the findings of researchers at Duke University and the University of Missouri.
One discovery was made in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, reported the Washington Post. “Scientists have determined that endocrine disruptors [from fracking waste] have switched the testes of male small-mouth bass to ovaries.”
More research is underway.
The fracking phenomenon “hit so fast that scientists had to scramble to determine whether it is safe for humans and the environment,” noted the Post.
Furthermore, the fracking process floods out of the ground arsenic, mercury, boron, radium, uranium and other elements. To get rid of it, the operators just inject it back into the ground.
But that’s proving increasingly problematic.
Ask residents in north-central Oklahoma who experienced a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on a Saturday morning in September 2016. The shaking damaged buildings in Pawnee and roadway infrastructure elsewhere in the area.
It was felt as far away as Chicago and Memphis.
No act of God here; deep-well injection of gas-and oil-field wastewater was the culprit, according to a newspaper report by the Associated Press.
It happens a lot these days in that region; other gas-and oil-field regions too.
The Water Story
Finally, natural gas, like coal, is just the front-end of a long process that eventually delivers usable electricity to customers.
Besides polluting the habitat-of-man, the burned natural gas brings to a boil great stores of fresh water to produce steam to turn giant electromagnetic turbines that generate the electricity.
That’s it for the fuel—boil the water, trash human living space, destroy the microbial life in the river water.
The water is eventually returned from whence it came—sterilized, too hot for the normal life of the river or lake.
New water is sucked into the system, and the whole process repeats itself over and over again, even as precious fresh water dries up in many part of the nation and the world.
Solar-and wind-generated electricity generally doesn’t go through that boiled-water, steam-making, turbine-turning routine. And nothing is burned. Thus, no CO2 or other harmful emissions. No water is required.
Geothermal energy may be substituted for the fossil fuel and nuclear fission in the water boiling phase of steam-powered electricity generation, so no water is saved. But, there is no CO2, nuclear waste, ash, etcetera, left over to haunt humankind far into the future.
So, you might ask: why do we, the people, bump along buying blindly a product—electricity—that slowly destroys the lives of the next generations WHEN WE DON’T HAVE TO?!
We don’t have to do without electricity, we just have to get it produced without crippling the human carrying capacity of the biosphere (HCCB).
The way out of natural gas—which was the half-measure that shouldered aside coal in 10 short years—is to start spending our money and otherwise “making markets” for the better alternatives to polluting technologies, products, services, processes and practices.
Do it the same way we retire coal…
Coal waste reduction starts with electrical efficiencies, residentially and organizationally. Start with the easy to overlook LED lightbulb.
It is a hot commodity in the commercial arena where companies are always looking for cost savings (Lux Solutions).
And the bulbs are the best, most powerful starter product available for budding green-consumers who want to do something directly and immediately to protect the habitat today’s newborns must have for a healthy life in old age.
Ultra-efficient lighting makeovers are all about getting more for less and reducing pollution too.
Few products or services can deliver those benefits.
The front-end cost of the bulbs is more ($7-$10) versus older bulbs, but LED devices last up to 25 years and deliver the same light on 85 percent less electricity, reducing conventional fuel emissions by that much in the process.
A few years of this, and the extra cost of the LED bulbs is recovered in electricity savings.
The switch to ultra-efficient lighting, motors and other devices since 2011 have already reduced expectations for electricity needs 25-30 years down the road.
“Old Energy” pays attention to these kinds of things.
The entire industry is at a watershed moment in its history… what is it going to be 30-40 years from now?
A dying relic of the Industrial Revolution, or the energy provider of the future that finally put sanity in electricity, profiting all the while?
A wholesale push by green-consumers to LED lighting from this point on will help tip that scale in the right direction.
Get familiar with the possibilities, as a resident and as an organization.
On-site Solar Electricity
It’s important to understand the terminology attached to solar-generated electricity.
From best to worst, the hierarchy is this: rooftop solar systems, nearby solar systems and grid-delivered solar power.
It is electricity generated by the sun on or adjacent to the premises that use the current produced.
The energy industry calls this system “distributed solar,” as opposed to current delivered via the grid system from some big plant far away (i.e., centralized electricity).
By whatever name, rooftop installations are the ideal setup for solar electricity.
From production to use, the current doesn’t have far to travel, so little is lost in transmission.
That is a huge drawback with conventional grid-delivered electricity.
The further the current has to travel to the user, the more of it is lost to the resistance encountered in the transmission wires (up to 99 percent in some cases).
The only way to make up for the loss is to crank-up the power plants by burning ever-greater quantities of life-altering fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Rooftop solar eliminates this problem, less solar-electric apparatus is needed and system costs are reduced.
Still, front-end costs for rooftop solar systems turn off a lot of potential customers, but rebates, tax credits and electricity savings take much of the sting out of that obstacle–enough that solar installations in the U.S. have surged from 645,000 in 2015 to 1.6 million units by the end of 2017.
That kind of growth—despite multiple regulatory obstacles put in place to kill or slow the development—is fearful to the energy establishment.
Unfettered rooftop solar electricity can drive Old Energy into obsolescence, so the “anti-environmental product-protectionists” fight the technology relentlessly.
Thirty-two state legislatures have thrown some kind of monkey wrench into the installation of rooftop solar systems.
In January 2018, Donald Trump imposed tariffs (i.e., jacked-up the price 30 percent) on solar panels made in China, South Korea and other foreign countries.
Despite it all, solar electricity keeps gaining, shouldering Old Energy out of its comfort zone.
Lend a hand—push those suckers over the side.
There are far better ways to produce and deliver electricity, and it’s long past time the world’s energy providers cut the cord to the past.
You can help that to happen in short order.
If you can afford it, think seriously about buying or leasing a rooftop solar electricity system.
There are a variety of options and providers (Home Advisor).
Explore the options in your locale. Get some installation quotes. See what the possibilities are. Maybe there’s a way to serve adjacent homes or businesses with a single system.
You may be surprised.
Nearby Solar Electricity
More and more, environmental entrepreneurs are building solar electricity systems sized to serve nearby communities, businesses and other applications.
The electricity generated doesn’t have to travel far, so the product lost in transmission is greatly reduced.
This “nearby” strategy for delivering electricity and reducing pollution will play a big role in energy production in the future.
Buy the product where available. Learn more about it. Lobby to bring systems to your town.
See if you can invest in good solid developments.
Grid-delivered Solar Power
To get in the solar game, some old-time power companies sell vague access to solar electricity via the grid system from some far-off site (Home Power—Solar Electricity).
Until the grid system is largely filled with non-polluting/low-polluting types of electricity, this form of solar power ranks at the bottom of the options.
But it is better than nothing, if only to show growing consumer preference for the smarter way.
So, buy grid-delivered solar electricity if the better choices are not available.
Recommend it to anyone in the same position as you.
The more demand for the product consumers display, the more the conventional electricity business will get the picture.
There’s no reason the energy establishment can’t get into the non-polluting/low-polluting electricity business.
They just need an unmistakable push from the marketplace.
Small Scale Wind Power
If the wind blows steadily where you live and you are inclined to curb the habitat destruction today’s newborns are destined to incur from coal waste, look into residentially-sized wind machines.
It’s clean energy of the best kind and much more feasible than you might think.
See what the possibilities are.
Maybe there are ways to split costs with one system that serves multiple properties. Talk it up with your neighbors.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Geothermal Alternatives to Coal
Heating and cooling systems powered by heat from the mantle of the Earth is well-refined and serves happy customers far and wide.
Well-designed, installed and maintained, geothermal systems are legit.
Look into it in your area.
Here too, there may be ways to spread costs and benefit across more than one property.
Every property owner and organization that can switch into some source of non-polluting/low-polluting electricity is a decided assist for the future of today’s newborns.
But help your city to “go green” and the impact can be greatly magnified.
With little more than trees, ornamental plants and sod, the air-conditioning and heating costs of big cities and small can be dramatically reduced.
With those reductions, pollution is also reduced.
Switch into LED lighting wherever possible and the reductions increase. Get behind these movements. They are very important.
Let the powers-that-be know that you are one consumer prepared to spend his or her money where it will do the most good for the children’s ecological future.
It will matter.
If consumers are to drive the shift to non-polluting/low-polluting (NPLP) forms of electricity, something akin to the neighborhood power company office has to be developed.
Maybe call it the “Green Energy Store,” make it convenient and friendly, apprise customers of all available options in the local marketplace, prepare quotations and contracts, complete with rebates and tax credits; arrange meetings with installers, schedule installation, offer LED lighting makeovers for residences and otherwise provide a one-stop shopping experience.
Get paid from monthly electricity savings, finder’s fees from installers and/or other means.
The serious green-energy options are out there, better in some states than others.
The motivation, ecologically and economically, for customer action grows stronger every day.
The Green Energy Store, in some form or another, is a service that has to happen if the next generations are to salvage a sustainable habitat from the steadily eroding biosphere.
Who in the entrepreneurial ranks will step up and fill this marketing void?
The business opportunity is as big as McDonald’s at its peak, as trend-setting as the iPhone.
Check out the rest of the “Consumer Solutions to the 7 Deadly Sins of Ecological Destruction” series now:
- An Introduction to… The 7 Deadly Sins of Ecological Destruction
- Solution to Sin #1: Deforestation
- Solution to Sin #2: Coal
- Solution to Sin #3: Oil-based fuels
- Solution to Sin #4: Natural gas
- Solution to Sin #5: Nuclear electricity
- Solution to Sin #6: Chemical waste
- Solution to Sin #7: Water loss & contamination