The right questions
This WaPo op-ed on the electrical grid is ho-hum. Turns out we need to improve the grid!
But one thing jumped out at me:
For real long-term progress, our leaders must invest in research so that we can find a way to capture and permanently store carbon emitted by coal-fired power plants. If we can pull off that feat, we could optimize our most plentiful fuel resource without increasing greenhouse gases.
Say it with me, kids: Coal is not our most plentiful fuel resource. Not even close. Not even in the damn ballpark. More solar energy hits the surface of the earth in a year than is embodied in all the world’s remaining coal. Same with wind; same with geothermal — there is effectively an infinite supply of renewable energy.
Which goes to show that quantity of fuel is the wrong question to be asking. The questions to ask are about conversion — that is, the cost and reliability of converting various forms of energy into useful energy services — and waste — that is, what’s left behind after the conversion.
We’ve got to start thinking about energy holistically. Only from an incredibly myopic perspective does a gigantic end-of-pipe waste containment technology for coal look like a reasonable energy solution.