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Where The Rainbow Begins

The solution to global warming can be found in The Future of Electricity column in this issue.

But there�s a catch to that solution. Two of them, actually.

For the past year, that column has been describing a seven-part idea to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, which has been blamed for climate change. This month�s column wraps up that series.

The electric utility scientists who came up with the idea for reducing carbon dioxide call it the PRISM, because when they chart the seven parts on a graph it looks like the rainbow that light makes after bending through a prism.

The ideas include energy efficiency, nuclear power, renewable energy, and electric cars.

The first of the two catches is that this plan will be expensive, and not all of the technology exists yet.

Energy efficiency, of course, saves money. But electric car technology still has a way to go to be practical and economical. The most-mentioned renewable fuels of solar and wind still come in at a cost much higher than what you�re paying for electricity right now.

For all the noisy headlines about global warming, the debate over real solutions hasn�t gotten very serious. Some of the leading proposals so far call for restricting the use of coal. Coal provides half the electricity in the U.S. and nearly all of it in Kentucky. It�s inexpensive compared with many alternatives. Coal is a reason your electricity costs aren�t higher than they are.

In the next few months and years, elected officials and other policy makers will begin offering specific proposals to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The costs of those plans will make many people reconsider their ideas about how we deal with the issue of climate change.

Which brings up the second catch to the PRISM: it�s not an energy solution.

The nation�s electric generation capacity is not keeping up with demand. We�re getting to the point where just a handful of power plants going down for repairs could mean electricity shortages. We need more power plants and transmission lines. That will add costs and complications to environmental concerns.

Difficult choices lie ahead. The solutions to balance energy and environmental priorities won�t be simple. But the PRISM offers a way to start working out the answers.

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