Reducing our use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) is done most cost-effectively by first reducing the total amount of energy we need through energy efficiency (using less energy to do the same task), and then use renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal) for the rest.
- Energy efficiency (better refrigerators, lighting, air conditioning, windows, insulation, etc.) is an investment that often pays for itself over time in energy savings (refrigerator example), and supports local clean energy jobs.
- Residents with lower energy bills have more money to spend locally.
- Businesses with lower energy bills are more profitable and help attract new businesses to town.
- Xcel Energy forecasts that electricity rates will increase for decades to come.
- The cost of coal has been increasing. The cost of power from coal will rise even faster as new pollution regulations come into effect, and yet faster if a carbon tax is enacted.
- In contrast, the cost of renewable energy is decreasing rapidly, and solar is expected to be at cost parity with grid power by 2020.
- Natural gas prices have historically been very volatile. Price spikes harm consumers and make business planning problematic.
- After wind and solar power are installed, the "fuel" is free and future power prices are known and stable.
- Coal-burning power plants emit harmful pollutants (mercury, sulfur, soot) that have health impacts and cause economic damage.
- Natural gas production via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") injects unknown chemicals into the ground and consumes millions of gallons of precious water per well.
- Cooling of thermal power plants (coal, gas, nuclear) uses large quantities of fresh water, which will increasingly compete with agricultural and residential uses.
- Carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal is the primary cause of global warming and climate change. Natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing is about as big a contributor as coal (per megawatt) due to the leakage of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
- The urgency of the need to address climate change by getting off of fossil fuels soon is well-described by respected climate scientist Richard Sommerville.
- Bottom line: We are responsible for the climate and environment that we leave to future generations.
We can prevent our energy dollars being used to keep old coal plants running or to frack for natural gas by buying less energy produced from fossil fuels, which we do by advancing the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency.