J.C. Moore Online
Current Events from a Science Perspective

Posts Tagged ‘Jobs growth’

We Must Switch to Renewable Energy

Mon ,25/07/2016

We must switch to renewable energy for health reasons, economic reasons, and environmental Temp pathsreasons.

Health reasons: The American Lung Association estimates that there are 26,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma caused by small particulates, much of it emitted from coal-fired power plants and from coal ash disposal. They estimate the economic benefits of reduced exposure to particulates alone could reach as much as $281 billion annually. Recently, fine particles have been implicated as a cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and new research has revealed a troubling link between mental illness and air pollution that seems to particularly effect children.

Economic reasons: Besides reducing health care costs, a switch to renewable energy will help keep our future electric rates low. Wind and solar are falling in cost and are now competitive with energy from coal-fired power plants. Recently AEP/PSO in Oklahoma purchased 800 MW of wind energy saying the cost was now less than building new coal fired plants, and that the purchase will save an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter. Kansas currently has 27,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. Of those jobs 75% are in wind energy, and are growing at a rate of 2.3% per year.  By the end of 2016, 32% of Westar’s retail electricity will come from the wind.

Environmental reasons: Coal is 65 to 95 % carbon. What about the rest? Burning coal releases mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide,  particulates, and radioactive isotopes. Burning  coal releases millions of tons of pollutants into the air and leaves several hundred million tons behind in the coal ash. Some pollutants stay in the air and others eventually find their way into the water, the food chain, and into us. For comparison, mercury is 100 times as toxic as cyanide, arsenic is 20 times as toxic, and chromium(VI) is 4 times as toxic. These three are also are carcinogenic and accumulate in tissue. Even exposure below the allowed levels increases the chance of cancer over time. The sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide released by coal combustion harm plants, produce acid rain, and increase the greenhouse gas concentrations. Switching to renewable energy would greatly reduce these  pollutants and help preserve the environment for future generations.

Summary: Investing in clean energy protects the environment, reduces death and disease from air pollution, and creates good, local jobs. We must develop policies to encourage the development of renewable energy investments and energy conservation. Our energy needs will best be served by a mixture of traditional and alternate energy sources, and we must be proactive in developing our renewable energy resources.

(c) 2016 J.C. Moore

What Does the Solyndra Bankruptcy Mean?

Tue ,20/09/2011

 No one knows for sure why the solar panel manufacturing company, Solyndra, went bankrupt or what it means, but Congress is now investigating the matter. Though it will be useful to know what went wrong, bankruptcies in these tough economic times are not unusual. It is not clear why Congress is investigating the matter, but if the investigation is used for political purposes, it may delay our development of renewable energy resources. This could further hurt our economy and actually cause the loss of jobs.

In spite of the fact that the Solyndra bankruptcy may have cost 1000 jobs, that is a small amount compared to the hundred thousand plus workers who now work in the solar energy business in United States. Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries and the graph above from this article estimates that the use of solar energy will increase fivefold by 2020. If the United States does not invest in the production of solar panels, it is almost certain that other countries will. China has set aside $34 billion to be invested in the production of solar panels. The $500 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra is rather small compared to that amount.

Unfortunately, the US investment in solar energy may be derailed by  Congress.  In spite of the other problems facing our nation, Congress has now launched a Congressional investigation into the Solyndra bankruptcy. It would seem that the investigation is politically motivated with the goal of embarrassing the Obama administration and derailing our efforts to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel. The Department of Energy has made a number of loan guarantees for investments in green energy projects and this is the only one which has had a serious problem. A number of large and savvy investors put over $1 billion into the Solyndra, so it cannot be claimed that it was was a bad investment from the beginning or that the company was supported entirely by the Department of Energy. Also, the political ramifications are not quite clear, as this timeline for the loan approval process for Solyndra shows it started in 2005 under the Bush administration.

Note added on 11/13/2014: Although the Solyndra bankruptcy has been used for political purposes to discourage investment in renewable energy, the loan program overall  has been quite successful.  Bloomberg News reported yesterday:

The U.S. government expects to earn $5 billion to $6 billion from the renewable-energy loan program that funded Solyndra LLC, supporting President Barack Obama’s decision to back low-carbon technologies. The results contradict the widely held view that the U.S. has wasted taxpayer money funding failures including Solyndra, which closed its doors in 2011 after receiving $528 million in government backing.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore