A letter writer recently sent a short question, and I quote, “What is the price of a life relative to coal?”
Coal is efficient. One hundred tons of coal gives you plenty of BTUs and allows for greater efficiency for steam-powered generation. One hundred tons of biomass (wood, hemp, what have you) in a boiler can’t touch it.
One hundred tons of solar powered batteries would be a joke. Like it or not, coal is the muscle behind being an industrial giant. Relying on wind and solar would reduce the giant to an anorexic ballerina, barely able to get by and easy prey for less enlightened nations bent on plunder.
Now for the human life side of the equation. Electricity has been the foundation for immunizations that kept the writer alive from childhood. His sewage and garbage is whisked away like magic. He enjoys roads and bridges.
Food appears on grocery shelves. If he gets sick, he has good medical care. Even the bicycle he uses on his daily commute required industry for its metals and rubber. A longer and greater quality of life is the upside of living in an industrialized society.
Of course there is a downside. Coal is dangerous to mine. Transportation has its hazards. The emissions from burning coal are harmful, and disposing of the ash is a big problem. We try to lessen the impact through environmental controls, but they only go so far. Any human endeavor has its down- side.
Batteries and solar panels use materials and chemicals that are toxic, and disposal isn’t always easy. Solar farms take up acreage that could help feed the hungry.
Windmills are a great idea until someone builds one in your backyard, and they are harmful to birds. When it comes to power generation, there is no free ride.
I know there is a nuclear engineer out there reading this and about to blow a fuse. Sorry, pal, between alarmists on one side and idiotic SCANA executives on the other, that option is off the table for a long time.
Craig S. Faust
Church Creek Drive