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.

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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.

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