I received a letter from my electric utility stating that they were again going to merger with another utility. The reason stated was to make sure there is enough generation capacity and to help keep rates low for their customers. I have learned over the years that this usually means my rates are going to go up again.
Here is a LINK to a PBS page on electric power generation in the US. if you click on the sources button, you can see what is used to generate electricity in each state. As you can see, coal is still the primary fuel for electric power generation. Both Bush and Obama have been trying to push for nuclear power, but with out substantial government subsidies it is not economically viable. As this chart shows.
You can read more here. The construction costs alone are substantial. So even with this support and the public resistant to have any of them near population centers, power companies are reluctant to invest in them even with subsidies. And with the government budget and budget hawks circling overhead, how long do you thing these subsidies will last ? So coal is the fuel of choice for electric power generation still and we have a bunch of it.
You you might (or might not) be saying to your self, “Hey we got coal coming out our ears. Electricity – No Problemo.”
Well not so fast. Even though we have this stuff and can burn it fairly cleanly, if we want to. We first need to get it to the power plants and this is where oil comes in big time. All or nearly all coal is transported to the power plants by rail and rail is diesel powered. All the equipment used to extract the stuff from under the ground or off the top of mountains is oil powered as well. (You really didn’t think they used mules any more, did you ?) So then electric power generation becomes a transport fuel problem. When the price of oil goes up, the price of transport goes up and the price of coal goes up and the price of electricity goes up.
What about renewable ? Solar and wind etc. They have a different set of problems. For one thing they require a good bit of real estate and for another people are resistant to having them close to where they live. Oh and Solar requires nice sunny days. Which kind of rules our certain areas of the country for that. I am not making judgment here, just stating the realities. So this is where we stand.
Here are some fun facts.
All those nice new tech devices you own. The PC and Television and DVD player and sound system. They all still draw electricity when they are “turned off”. You have to actually unplug them or have a power strip to remove the power.
That nearly every electric device you own. Refrigerator, AC, lights, dryer, electric stove, heat, anything with a motor in it, even your electronics. They all draw the most power when they are initially turned on.
The way we generate electricity has not change significantly since the early 1900s.
That the induction electric motor that is in your AC, washing machine, dryer, pump etc. and was invented by Nicoli Tesla was not meant be run on the single phase style current we have in our homes. So it is kind of kludged to get it to work.
And here is a chart of the cost of generating electricity by various means.
Most of us would have a very difficult time getting along without electricity.