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Hippie Environmentalist

The first Earth Day environmental rally I attended was 43 years ago.

So why am I editing a magazine published by electric utilities?

As this year’s Earth Day approaches on April 22, here’s my answer:

First, I’m proud to work for an industry where the customer owns the company. Electric co-ops are local and not-for-profit, so their priorities focus on the best combination of cost and service for the customer. Co-ops are run by boards democratically elected by the people who use the product. For an idealistic environmentalist, that’s cool.

The planet-friendliness of Kentucky co-ops is more complicated. Here are my conclusions about hot-button energy topics, based on decades of research, pondering, and hanging out with people who make and deliver the power.

Coal is regularly cited for many environmental ills, including global warming. Coal use has declined, down to producing 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, and 90 percent in Kentucky. But those numbers are still huge. Whether you think climate change is a dire threat or a bunch of bunk, we’re still going to be burning lots of coal for a long time to come. Let’s figure out how we can burn it in ways more acceptable to everyone. Kentucky Living has written extensively on cleaner-burning coal—at type “clean coal” in the Article Search box.

Renewable energy. We need more. The best way to make that happen is to have open and realistic discussions of its costs and limits. Solar and wind energy are great, but not at night or in calm weather. And they cost more. Let’s acknowledge the problems of renewable energy so we can solve them.

Efficiency is a form of energy so promising that one group calls it “the fifth fuel” (in addition to coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, and nuclear). The potential is huge, and anyone can put it into effect right now, as simply as adjusting the thermostat and shutting off lights. Tons of other ideas appear monthly in Kentucky Living. And they save money. Check out local efficiency incentives in this month’s Energy 101 column.

This aging environmentalist gets to celebrate Earth Day by telling the 1 million readers of Kentucky Living how to save energy, money, and the planet.

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