Jeff Goodell recently visited the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT to plug his latest book, Big Coal : The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. It’s a timely book for our times because I think we are in a quandry of sorts about our energy sources. It’s a topic that touches on the future of the environment and on morality. You can read about his visit to the Northshire at the Rutland Herald.
First of all, people have to dig out the coal. It’s a hazardous job that typically falls on the shoulders of people who are not affluent. They work on hazardous conditions that are not always up to code.
Secondly, the mining itself can sometimes damage the land and lead to erosion.
Third, the burning of coal is polluting the air and depleting the ozone layer. In fact, it may well be that our lights are being powered by either coal or nuclear power right now, both of which leave us with a mess that we will never be able to clean up completely (should we ever want to). It makes me think of a book I saw called: Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology. It’s the story of two people who went off electricity for a whole year and had a good time of it.
I’m not ready to go to that extreme, but reading about people who did such a thing motivates me to use energy efficient bulbs and to hit the sack early. Why not get up early when the suns up? It never occurred to me until we were up one evening when the power was out. We had candles everywhere and I thought to myself, heck, people have been living this way for thousands of years. They probably just went to bed instead of messing with this candle business.
Vermont has been leading the charge with energy efficient bulbs partially because our energy companies can’t produce enough power. The other reason is that everyone and their uncle hates the Yankee Nuclear Power plant in Brattleboro. It’s nice to raise efficiency awareness. We’ve cut our bill in half since joining in the efficiency program.
What I find interesting is how resistant people in Vermont have been to wind energy. While Vermont does need to proceed cautiously with this program, as the scenery is what draws people to the state, I can’t help but think we could put a few turbines on select ridgelines for the sake of providing a clean source of energy.
It’s really ridiculous for people to protest coal and nuclear power on one hand and then complain about the “eye-sore” of wind turbines. I’ve seen them in Hawaii, on the west coast, and even Wilkes-Barre, PA of all places. They’re not pretty, but they’re not hideous. They stood out on a small section of a large ridgeline and that was it. If anything, I thought they looked neat. If I had a choice, I’d go with wind power or hydroelectric power any day, even if we can’t use the same amount of energy that we’re used to. People lived without electricity for the vast majority of history. Why can’t we cut back a little and explore some alternatives?