This monthï¿½s The Future of Electricity column raises one of the most difficult energy dilemmas: how much are you willing to pay to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming?
During the past several months, stories in Kentucky Living have described several ways to reduce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Energy efficiency rises to the top of the list because it actually saves money. Renewable energy uses more sustainable fuels that produce less greenhouse gas. However, renewable fuels tend to be costlier.
But reducing greenhouse gas growth requires both those methods, and more.
An idea that could cut greenhouse gas growth as much as both efficiency and renewable energy combined, would capture carbon dioxide before it leaves a coal-fired power plant, and store it underground.
As The Future of Electricity column explains this month, thatï¿½s hard. Converting a power plant so it can collect the carbon dioxide created by burning coal is a huge project. And even before construction can begin, developing the technology will require years of scientific and engineering research.
And the machinery itself will be a huge energy hog. Carbon dioxide removal equipment is expected to eat up an incredible one-third of the electricity produced by the power plant.
In other words, while homeowners are taking steps like switching to energy-saving light bulbs, carbon capture and storage equipment will be making coal plants less efficient.
In short, carbon capture and storage will be extremely expensive to develop and operate.
The point is not that this technology is a bad idea. It may be the single most effective method to reduce greenhouse gases.
The point is, how much do you want to pay to reduce greenhouse gases? Because those costs will show up on your electric bill.
Whether we want to spend so much money on carbon capture and storage is just one of the tough choices our policy and political leaders will have to make. To help them decide, theyï¿½ll be paying close attention to the opinions of people like you. Especially in this election year.
Kentucky Living will keep telling you about these kinds of choices. But it will be up to you as a voter, and as a member of your electric cooperative, to make decisions on your energy and environmental future.