Fix climate: use renewables

To the editor:

It is encouraging to note that there seems to an increased awareness of energy and climate concerns and the corresponding understanding that we have only one planet. Quoting Emmanuel Macron (and others), “There is no planet B.”

Considering the movement to cleaner energy. It is interesting to step back and look at where we are and what needs to be done. Due to a plentiful supply of natural gas, the use of coal in this country is declining, and a switch from coal to gas reduces carbon emissions roughly by half. However, this is not the complete story. Our aging nuclear plants will be gradually taken off line, and if a nuclear plant is replaced by a gas-fired plant, this change results in an increase in carbon emission.

With regard to the development of renewable energy sources, one problem that needs to be corrected is our very limited ability to store large amounts of energy. Because electric energy on the grid is generated simultaneously with use, electric generation must respond to demand, and peaks in demand do not necessarily correspond to the peaks in sun or wind generation. Of the three main types of renewable energy (sun, wind, and hydroelectric), only hydro is capable of providing substantially constant (base) power. This means that the development of extensive solar and wind energy facilities must also include the development of some manner of significant and cost-effective energy storage.

On the positive side, Arizona Public Service has recently announced the construction of a 65 MW solar power facility that includes battery storage. This concept has apparently become feasible due to a recent dramatic reduction in the cost of lithium-ion batteries as produced for electric cars.

The federal administration has attempted to enhance the use of coal, but it has not worked – coal use continues to decline. A better strategy would have been to direct some of the development in renewable technology into coal-producing states. In addition, there was no rational reason to drop out of the Paris Climate Accord. One of the areas of the world that is very susceptible to increased drought and instability is North Africa — where we have already spent several trillion dollars. Considering all of the possible effects of climate change, it is a potentially huge burden to pass on to our descendants.

Perhaps this would be a good time for someone to sell some low-lying coastal frontage to Trump, Pence and Pruitt.

Paul Lewis