Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Guest Essay: Embrace The Renewable Energy Future Now Before It's Too Late

This guest essay first appeared in the Daily Item on September 11, 2022--

While the majority of Pennsylvanians want the nation to seriously address climate change, close to half of all federal legislators and substantially more than half the legislators in our statehouse are not yet on board. 

Perhaps one question for those lawmakers is, “How long can our nation continue to rely on an extremely wasteful system for generating electricity?”

Everyone can understand that renewable energy sources--  sunlight, wind, the heat of the earth, and water in various forms of motion-- have an initial advantage over sources that must be continually extracted, processed, transported, and burned. 

Fossil fuel’s advantage is density, its storage of energy. Human beings have been burning things for tens of thousands of years, and we’ve organized our economies on burning fossil fuels. Transitioning away from them will be a difficult leap for humanity.

Most Pennsylvanians understand that burning these fuels has simply become too damaging to our atmosphere to continue apace, let alone serve the desires of billions of people around the world who aspire to our standard of living. 

Luckily, through theory, research, investment, and innovation, civilization has reached a point where electricity produced from renewable sources can provide for many of our needs at a lower cost than fossil fuels.

Generating electricity by burning fossil fuels is a wasteful process. Much energy is wasted while producing the heat needed to evaporate water to make steam to spin a turbine to produce motion, which via electromagnetism, becomes electricity. 

By comparison, renewables require fewer conversions from one form of energy to another, conversions which each waste energy.

As easily accessible fossil fuel resources have been depleted, and costs of extraction have risen, the economic case for renewables has only improved. 

Renewables continue producing power for decades at almost entirely fixed costs. 

True, generation from the wind or sun is not dependably available everywhere around the clock. But in a country as large as ours, there can be enough intermittent renewable power made, stored, and moved around to overcome that problem. 

It will take an incredible amount of private investment, millions of new manufacturing jobs, and serious regulatory overhaul to reach the economies of scale to cover all aspects of such a massive transition. 

The federal government has jumped-started the process, first with the 2021 infrastructure bill and now the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

No question that our standard of living was built on cheap energy from fossil fuels. They served most of us well for generations, but with devastating consequences to many, and by placing a burden on future generations we can no longer ignore. 

Time has come for the world, and Pennsylvania, to dedicate itself to a prosperity no longer dependent on burning fossil fuels. 

Upcoming legislative, corporate, and household decisions in each state will advance or delay this inevitable process.

The emerging energy transition is both an enormous challenge, and an incredible opportunity. 

We already know how to do most of it, starting with electrifying all we can while ramping up renewable generation, and investing in finding solutions for vital industries — steel, cement, plastics, and fertilizer — that currently have no economic alternative to fossil fuel dependence.

Many are skeptical that the recently passed act will live up to its name and actually reduce inflation. 

In the short term, they are probably correct. 

In the long term, though, this very well-designed law puts us on a path to much cheaper, stable-priced energy that will put a huge, continual brake on inflation. 

It starts with investing now to build a new energy economy.

Whether Pennsylvania lawmakers are concerned with climate change or not, the combination of electrification and decarbonization is the key to continually improving our standard of living and maintaining our economic strength in a world of rising energy demand and resulting turmoil. 

We know where we need to go, we just don’t yet have all the answers on how to get there. 

Having a leading fossil fuel producing state pull together to enable the transition will help the nation, and the world, get there faster. 

Will the Keystone state embrace the energy transition underway nationally, or will we continue to allow fossil fuel interests dominate our future?

Ralph Kisberg is an Energy Policy Consultant for the Williamsport-based Responsible Decarbonization Alliance.

Related Articles:

-- Global Clean Energy Action Forum In Pittsburgh: News Coverage, Recorded Sessions [PaEN]

-- Pennsylvania Catches Up In National Rankings For Solar Energy Adoption By Schools; G.E.T. Solar Energy Help Now; Avoid Natural Gas Price Spikes  [PaEN]

-- Stroud Water Research Center Honors Dr. Michael E. Mann, Climate Scientist & Author, At The Water's Edge Gala On Nov. 3  [PaEN]

-- PA DEP Has Yet To Finalize Conventional Oil & Gas Facility Methane Emissions Reduction Reg. That Deals With 80% Of Methane Emissions From That Industry In PA  [PaEN]

-- Washington & Jefferson College Hosts Oct. 4 Exploring Local & Regional Opportunities For Hydrogen In Appalachia  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 28, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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