Change for the Better – Relying on Environmentally-Friendly Sources Coal: Yes, I do. I have the most reserves of any energy source here. Gassy: Yes, yes, but let’s not forget, further work is unlocking more reserves of natural gas. We haven’t even begun to study all the ways to extract me from the ground. Besides, using you releases a lot of toxic emissions rich in sulfur, mercury, nitrogen… Robin: Gassy, can you please speak in plain English? Gassy: Sorry. Yes. Burning coal releases air pollution that natural gas does not produce. Natural gas might not be as energy dense as coal, but it’s much cleaner. Wanda: Not so fast, Gassy. Burning you does create carbon dioxide, and nearly all climate scientists agree that burning sources like natural gas and coal for energy is dramatically changing global climate. Walt: Yes, that is why my turbines are becoming so popular. We don’t burn anything! Wanda: Neither do my turbines. Walt: Yes, but using your turbines can require that valleys be flooded by building a dam.
Robin: Is it, though? Haven’t I heard of other technologies using the energy of moving water? Wanda: Oh yes! Of course! Some people are working on capturing the energy of ocean waves and tides, but those ideas are not being used widely yet in the U.S. We are hopeful, though, that some day waves and tides can generate significant amounts of electricity for our country. Coal: Until then, there’s KING COAL! Gassy: (Mumbling) I didn’t know kings ranked second. Coal: What’s that, Gassy? Speak up so I can hear you! Gassy: I said GET USED TO BEING SECOND. Coal: (sighing) You’re right. People just don’t use me like they once did. I’ve tried to clean up my act, I really have. We’ve researched and found lots of ways to use coal that are clean. We have scrubbers that remove sulfur and nitrogen, and we have looked into ways of turning coal to gas and burning the gas. But this technology is expensive, and most people don’t want to make that huge investment. Sam: I can relate to that!
Sam: Uuuuhhh ooooohhhh Walt! You said a bad word!
Robin: Why is that, Sam?
Walt: I did not! A dam is a marvel of engineering.
Sam: Well, despite the fact that there are no harmful emissions when using photovoltaics, and even though solar energy is cheap to use, utilizing solar energy requires a substantial up-front investment to purchase and install the equipment. The technology is just not economically feasi-
Sam: Ha! You said dam again! Walt: Stop being so childish. Sam: (giggling) Sorry, I can’t help myself. Robin: ANYWAY… Wanda, can you tell us why your turbines haven’t been increasing in use? Wanda: Thanks for bringing that up, Robin! (makes a face) Well the sad fact is, I’m being used in about as many places as possible in the United States. There are some places with … those marvels of engineering … that are used for flood control where my turbines could be installed, but for the most part, I am where I am, and that’s all there is to that.
Robin: In English, please, Sam. Sam: Sorry. Yes. The problem is that even though solar panels don’t produce air pollution, and even though sunlight is free, it costs a lot of money to buy solar panels and have them installed. It can take up to 25 years to earn that money back in energy savings. Robin: But aren’t prices coming down? And aren’t more and more people having solar panels installed on their homes and at places like businesses, schools, and government buildings?
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