The U.S. power supply is maintained by a variety of sources. Each source represents a percentage of the entire supply generated, hydroelectric 7.1%, Nuclear 19.3%, Natural Gas 20%, Petroleum/Fuel Oil 1.6%, Coal 48.9%, Other Renewable 2.4%, and Other .07% (Source:http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html). It’s quite clear that coal plays an important part in energy production for the United States.
The United States has some of the largest untapped coal reserves in the world, and we would be foolish not to take advantage of that. Its part of what will keep us energy independent for many years to come.
Coal fired plants are tried and true source for energy generation. This is no matter whether they use coal pellets or coal based slurry for a power source. This is the most economical way to generate electrical power that uses a fossil fuel power source. Even when transportation and coal processing costs rise due to the cost of fuel and other factors, is doesn’t affect the cost of the coal that much. For one coal is moved by rail, the most economical way to transport coal and two the cost of the coal itself doesn’t change and is inexpensive to mine, all things considered. It also keeps a lot of coal mine workers employed.
One of the best and cleanest energy sources currently available beyond a doubt is hydroelectric, but unfortunately this is a limited resource. It’s totally renewable but limited. There are only so many rivers that are large enough to run a plant. Plus it doesn’t help that the environmentalists and the EPA like to overregulate this form of electric generation. The EPA doesn’t like reservoirs very well, and we certainly don’t want to disturb those little fishes or move them. We are still building very small hydro plants, but no plants as large as Hoover Dam System on the Colorado River in Nevada or the Grand Coulee System on the Columbia River in Washington.
Wind farms are costly to build considering their low output. They're too dependent on the winds, and are an ugly sight to see on the horizon. I myself find them to be a bit creepy.
Nuclear power plants are expensive to build and costly to run. They are can be dangerous to have around. Anybody remember Three Mile Island? But the biggest problem with them is radiation, radioactive cooling ponds for spent fuel rods, and disposal of the rods themselves. Let’s not forget about transporting those rods to an approved disposal site across the US.
Petroleum/Fuel Oil plants provide a small amount of energy into the national grid. The issues with these types of power plants are the cost of the fuel. Costs are much more volatile than coal, are greatly affected by market pricing and can cost more to transport. Any type of fossil fuel has a finite amount of energy that can be released when burned, no matter how efficient the facility. The costlier the fuel sources the higher price we pay on our monthly power bill. Coal is the cheapest fossil fuel we have.
Natural Gas power plants are most defiantly cleaner then either coal or petroleum, but it to has own set of problems. The problems center on transportation of the natural gas and its high cost when compared to coal. Natural Gas is just as volatile as petroleum, and as in all fossil fuel plants only so much energy can be gathered from burning of the fuel.
Wood fired plants I suppose can be built, but there isn’t wood available to run a plant for very long. Plus the cost of the fuel source is high, not to mention transportation costs and intense labor costs. It is renewable fuel source but the time it takes to grow a tree is too long to make this type of plant feasible.
Solar powered plants are clean and have an unlimited energy source, but they too have drawbacks that make them impractical. I have seen the solar power plant in Daggit California. Their problems are, limited by cloud cover, which I realize is more of a moot point in the southwest, but still a cloudy day means no or limited power generation, so you would still need a coal plant to take over on those days. So why bother with a solar plant to begin with? The number of solar reflectors and the space they take up is quite large so the amount of energy generated is controlled by these factors.
One of the more exotic power plants postulated is microwave. Microwave reflectors are placed in geosynchronous orbit around the planet. The microwaves are focused into a tight beam of energy, directed at the collector in the power plant. The microwaves heat water to steam which spins turbines, thereby generating electricity. Needless to say this currently beyond our ability to build, and the cost astronomical, not to mention dangerous.
Now if the Government wanted to invest in alternatives to coal, there are other ways besides the ones already mentioned. How about a thermonuclear fusion plant where atoms are forced together, instead of splitting them apart. What is done is two hydrogen isotopes, called deuterium and tritium are forced together releasing energy. The by-product is the heavier element helium with no radiation.
The amount of energy in the brief nano second (one billionth of a second) the reaction releases is 1000 x the energy consumed by the entire world for the same time period. The cost to do this part of the process is about $5.00 in electricity. (Go to history.com/modernmarvels/highhopesfor fusion power)
The energy released is almost the temperature of the sun. The three big problems from what I understand is sustaining the fusion reaction, being able to contain it, and siphoning off the heat that is generated fast enough. There is no material on this planet, right now anyway, that can withstand these temperatures. Most attempts to contain this reaction have been the creation of what’s called a 'magnetic bottle’. It’s a concept that can work, but unfortunately takes more energy to create than what the reactions can produce in usable power. Until these problems are solved this will remain an unusable source of energy.
Many years ago there was a science magazine published called OMNI. It was devoted to the latest scientific breakthroughs and the more esoteric science ideas of the time. I remember reading about this way to generate electricity, that I found to be quite intriguing, and I always wondered why nothing ever became of it. The idea was to build a 10 story high framework to support a number of propellers. Similar to a wind propeller but the medium is water not air.
The unit and propellers are large enough and spin slow enough for even whales to swim through, while even in operation but would cause no harm to marine life. The power to turn the propellers is the oceans Gulf Stream which travels along the coast of the United States going from south to the north. This underwater river moves between 3 and 5 MPH 24/7. The idea is to place these units on the continental shelf from Maine to Florida in the middle of the Gulf Stream along the eastern seaboard. The southeastern portion of the Gulf Stream, along our eastern seaboard is known as the worlds fastest. All this massive amount of moving water would turn the propellers which in turn cause turbines to rotate, thereby generating electricity. It was postulated that a string of these units could power the entire eastern seaboard, from the Appalachian Mountains to the coast.
On the west coast the Alaska Stream travels north up the coast of California, then along the Canadian coast to Alaska. The Alaska Stream is turned by the Alaska coastline and Aleutian Islands. The Alaskan Stream joins with the North Pacific Steam and they travel south to below Mexico where they join with the California Steam and they then travel north and become the Alaskan Stream. It is again postulated that the west coast states going east to Nevada could be powered.
This form of power generation addresses all the problems the EPA whines about. It has no carbon emissions, harmless to marine life, has a totally free totally renewable power source, and once installed pretty much maintenance free. Why power companies and the government are not all over this idea keeps me mystified.
The EPA’s biggest issue is carbon dioxide emissions which is a farce perpetrated on them, who attempt to make logically minded people believe this falsehood too.
Carbon is one of the most abundant materials on the planet. We use it for a multitude of industries from #2 pencils to body parts on race cars. Diamonds are made from carbon. We breathe it and our bodies are made of it. Carbon Dioxide is a basic component of the life cycle on this planet. Without carbon dioxide all life would die and our planet would become a barren wasteland.
All plant life requires CO2 and sunlight to perform photosynthesis utilizing the chlorophyll in their structures to produce energy to live and grow. When trees use this process the carbon is locked into the wood until burned where it is then released. The cycle starts over. The by product of this process is oxygen which you and I require for life
If we are pumping extra CO2 into the atmosphere so what. The more CO2 the faster plant and trees grow, putting more oxygen into the air. With the human population exploding around the world, that’s billions of more people needing oxygen to breath. A little more CO2 will help keep up with the oxygen supply.
The cars we drive require oxygen to operate, or any internal combustion engine for that matter. The food we eat depends on CO2.
What the EPA needs to concern themselves with is particulate matter being pumped into the atmosphere, or any emission that helps create smog, which can limit the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which will curtail plant growth. When a volcano erupts, it’s not the massive amounts of CO2 released but the soot and ash that cause the problems.
When you compare the megawatts of electricity generated to the fuel source it becomes very clear that coal fired plants stand head and shoulders above the rest. The United States controls within its borders the worlds largest coal deposits, an estimated 242.6 gigatons (one gigaton is equal to one billion tons) or 28.6% of the total world supply. (source:www.ehow.com/about_5452952_coal-deposits-found.html)
There are answers to the countries power issues, but as we can see the EPA has no interest in solving them. Its main concern and mission is to regulate our current system to death. Why? Because it makes the liberals and environmentalists feel important, even though it may be detrimental to the rest of us.
If the EPA and all the environmentalists get their way we soon will be back to candles and a fireplace for heat and light. I’m quite sure the EPA will regulate that to death too.