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Uneasy Energy

I worried when I printed my From the Editor column in March, �Greenhouse lessons.�

In May, I worried about running letters criticizing the column.

Now I worry about this month�s letters from readers concerned about global warming.

I worry because I know this subject invites passions that can strain the limits of civility. But I print these controversial energy topics because they matter to you. In fact, the outcome of these debates will probably raise your electric bill.

Yes, higher costs are on the way. And despite the profound implications of global warming, it�s only one reason we�re about to see price increases.

Here�s the main reason you could be paying more for electricity in the next few years: supply barely exceeds demand.

That doesn�t mean your lights will flicker and dim. Utilities know lots of ways to make all the electricity you want.

What it does mean is that utilities will have to pay for more generating capacity, and that money will come from ratepayers.

Coal offers the best choice right now for that extra capacity. It�s relatively cheap, and the United States has a 200-year supply in the ground. Kentucky relies especially on its coalfields, and that has kept our rates among the lowest in the nation.

Coal brings along problems, however. The power plants are expensive, and require still more costly pollution control equipment.

Among coal�s emissions is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and that�s where global warming meets your pocketbook.

Research is finding cleaner ways to burn coal, but that adds costs. Some utilities are reconsidering nuclear power, which has its own cost and environmental questions. Solar and wind power tend to be expensive and are limited to when the sun shines and the wind blows. Conservation and efficiency can�t meet all our energy needs, but can help a lot, and you can do it yourself.

If this sounds complicated, it is. But Kentucky Living will help you understand it. This month we�re starting an expanded version of The Future of Electricity column. You�ll also find an essay on how climate change affects you in the Guest Opinion column in this issue.

Some of the energy news in the coming months and years will be difficult and uncomfortable. But we�ll print it, and explain what you can do about it.

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