In a historic first, renewable energy sources have eclipsed old-school coal generation in the United States, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
While the landmark achievement may be a boon for the renewable energy sector—which includes geothermal, biomass, wind, solar, and hydro—the news also signals the decline of already-struggling coal-fired generating plants across the U.S.
While the numbers reflect long-term trends, seasonal considerations also played a role. For example, as snow melts across the U.S. during the spring, hydro power generation reaches peak levels. Coal plants are typically taken offline during periods of low demand—like the spring snow melt—for maintenance and upgrades to ensure their smooth operation for the high-demand seasons of summer and winter.
And while renewables aren’t quite set to outperform coal on a year-round basis yet, they are fast becoming cheaper than coal as decades invested in revolutionizing renewable energy sources has resulted in inexpensive mass-manufactured solar panels and cheaper wind turbines.
Coal has been blasted as the most polluting energy source in use today, constituting the single biggest contributor to global warming while tainting the air we breathe and the water we drink with tons of toxic coal ash. Coal pollution is linked to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States— including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness—and 36,000 U.S.residents die every year due to air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
In the meantime, coal is becoming far more expensive for the big utilities firms as aging coal plants reach the end of their lifespans, causing maintenance costs to skyrocket while stagnating coal costs fritter away at profit margins. Indeed, over the past decade, the costs of both coal and natural gas have largely stagnated.
And the trend is expected to continue as regions across the U.S. realize that the cost differential between coal, nuclear, and renewables, such as wind and solar, make the continued operation of nonrenewable plants unfeasible from a financial perspective. In fact, across the United States dozens of coal plants have been shuttered over the past several years while solar and wind power are seeing historic boom-times.
Nevertheless, renewable energy’s relative cheapness and cleanliness in terms of storage technology remain incapable of shouldering the weight of such a massive developed economy as exists in the United States. Yet as the costs of producing nuclear power, waste storage, and the production and storage of coal continue to rise and renewables continue to grow cheaper, it’s only a matter of time before cleaner energy sources displace conventional fossil-fuel based sources.
Even if renewables will only outpace coal for a few months this year, all signs are pointing to this becoming a trend that will only grow as time passes. We can expect that perhaps within our lifetimes, the necessity of fighting climate change along with the increasing attractiveness of renewable energy costs will ensure that coal-fired and natural gas power plants will fade into the history books.
Lunar New Deal: GOP Lawmaker Suggests Altering Moon & Earth’s Orbit to Stop Climate Change
Texas Republican Congressman Louise Gohmert raised the eyebrows of his Congressional colleagues on Tuesday after seemingly suggesting that climate change could be combatted by changing the orbit of the moon, or even altering “Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
Gohmert, who has been decried as the “dumbest member of Congress” for his past absurdly anti-scientific comments regarding the ongoing pandemic and a number of other issues, has been a vocal opponent of progressive legislators’ attempts to put a “Green New Deal” on the government’s agenda.
However, his apparent suggestion of a “Lunar New Deal” to mitigate global warming could take the cake as his most hare-brained idea yet.
The comments came during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four pending bills while questioning Jennifer Eberlien of the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, reports NBC.
“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the B.L.M. [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” the Texas congressman began.
“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” he continued.
“We know there’s been significant solar flare activity,” Gohmert said. “And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or B.L.M. can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?”
“Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate,” the lawmaker added.
Responding, Eberlein said with a smile: “I would have to follow up with on you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”
“If you figure out there’s a way in the forest service you could make that change, I’d like to know,” Gohmert responded, without any trace of irony.
Longtime critics of the conservative legislator were besides themselves with bewilderment and mockery over the out-of-this-world suggestion.
On the opposite side of the aisle California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu suggested that perhaps Marvel Comics superheroine Captain Marvel was up to the task.
“She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I’m going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help,” Lieu wrote on Twitter.
According to NASA, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history for various reasons, including small variations in the planet’s orbit.
However, the agency’s website notes that this doesn’t discount the fact that anthropogenic or human-caused activities are the culprit of the current warming.
“The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia,” the site says.
Luxurious Airships Will Soon Be ‘Hopping’ Between Cities, And Could Drastically Cut Flying’s CO2 Emissions
A revolutionary new startup called Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) is hoping to massively reduce the carbon footprint of air travel by replacing commercial airplanes with blimps for short-range flights.
An estimated 2.4 percent of global CO2 emissions come from aviation which, along with the other gases it burns and the water vapor trails produced by aircraft, is estimated to contribute roughly 5 percent of global warming.
However, by slashing the number of planes traveling short distances and instead using airships to hop between cities – think from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or New York to Toronto – HAV could contribute to a drastic cutdown of airliners’ carbon emissions.
At present, about 47 percent of regional airplane flights in Europe connect cities that are less than 230 miles (370km) apart, emitting a massive amount of carbon dioxide in the process.
HAV, which gained early funding from seasoned pilot and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson along with UK government backing, says that its airships only emit around ten percent of the greenhouse gases of a passenger plane – and the number could reduce further as the startup continues to electrify its fleet.
According to HAV chief executive Tom Grundy, the airships are more like a “fast ferry” than an all-out replacement for airplanes. In total, a short-range blimp voyage should take roughly the same amount of time as a short flight when factoring in check-in times, security procedures and the wait at an airport.
“This isn’t a luxury product,” Grundy told The Guardian, “it’s a practical solution to challenges posed by the climate crisis.”
“We’ve got aircraft designed to travel very long distances going very short distances when there is actually a better solution,” Grundy added. “How much longer will we expect to have the luxury of traveling these short distances with such a big carbon footprint?”
The company has already begun discussions with a number of airlines to forge new partnerships to operate the routes.
“It’s an early and quick win for the climate,” Grundy said. “Especially when you use this to get over an obstacle like water or hills.”
Scientists Horrified as Over 27,000 Leaking Barrels of Toxic DDT Discovered on Seafloor Near LA
Over 27,000 barrels of the toxic insecticide DDT have been found so far on the seafloor about 12 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, in what could be one of the greatest examples of industrial pollution uncovered in recent memory.
The barrels have been leaking, and researchers fear that there could be up to a few hundred thousand barrels of DDT waste in total. Over 100,000 total objects have been found in the area by researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The barrels cover an area roughly spanning double the size of Manhattan and lie off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, which is home to dozens of endemic species that exist nowhere else in the world.
DDT waste has been linked to cancer and widespread disease among humans as well as mass die-off events in the natural world. It is likely that the vast trove of illegally dumped DDT could be linked to the widespread cancer faced by sea lions along the West Coast.
“Unfortunately, the basin offshore Los Angeles has been a dumping ground for industrial waste for several decades, beginning in the 1930s. We found an extensive debris field in the wide area survey,” said Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in a statement.
Los Angeles Times reports that shipping logs from a disposal company implicate Montrose Chemical Corp. of California, a company that produced DDT, in likely dumping some 2,000 barrels of DDT-laced sludge each month from 1947 to 1961 into a designated dumpsite.
Additionally, logs from other entities show that several other industrial concerns in Southern California used the basin as a dumping ground until 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act was enacted.
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