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The Sense In A Dollar

Picture yourself breaking a dollar bill into 100 pennies. That mound of coins can tell you a lot about energy in America.

Imagine each penny as part of the fuel that generates your electricity in Kentucky.

Count out three cents�that�s the share of electricity generated by burning petroleum.

Count out two cents�that portion comes from hydroelectric dams.

Pull out one penny�that�s how much electricity comes from burning natural gas. Finally, set aside one more penny�that�s the share produced from renewable energy like solar, wind, wood, and methane from landfill gas (actually it would be less than a penny, but we won�t make you cut it into pieces).

The remaining pile of 93 coins shows how much electricity comes from burning coal�nearly all of it.

The big energy debate in the United States these days focuses on people who think 93 coins is too many. They say coal pollutes and causes global warming. They propose replacing coal with renewable energy.

Let�s say we somehow triple our production of renewable energy in Kentucky and use it to replace coal. To show what that would look like, move two pennies from the coal coins to join the one penny in the renewable energy stack. You�ll notice the pile of coal coins is still about the same size.

After the huge effort to create three times the wind farms, solar panels, and biogas plants, and building the transmission lines to ship electricity from wherever this alternative energy is produced to where people want to use it, we will still get nearly all of our electricity from coal.

No matter what you think of coal, for a long time into the future it will produce most of our electricity. We need to learn to use it in the most efficient, effective, and environmentally sustainable way possible.

This month�s The Future of Electricity column describes new federal rules that will make generating electricity with coal a lot more expensive. With so much of your electricity coming from coal, it�s easy to see that those rules will be bad for people in Kentucky.

Electric co-ops will be working hard with officials in Washington to change those rules so they keep our electricity as reliable and affordable as possible. Stay tuned to Kentucky Living for updates on these efforts, and what you can do to help.

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