Tuesday linkaround: Solar soars while fossil fuels wither without water
That’s good news because-as the deepening drought emergency in California attests-the continued availability of the massive amounts of water required for conventional electricity is no sure thing. The Golden State is far from alone in experiencing water scarcity, and a column in Forbes makes a strong case that the water intensity of fuels must be a consideration when planning our energy future:
Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.
Of course, the cost of pollution also must be part of the conversation when making decisions about our energy system. Here in Michigan, where we don’t have any coal to mine, we tend to focus on the pollution that leaves power-plant smokestacks. But as a new Associated Press analysis makes clear, the coal industry has inflicted staggering damage to waterways in mining country:
For decades, chemicals and waste from the coal industry have tainted hundreds of waterways and groundwater supplies, spoiling private wells, shutting down fishing and rendering streams virtually lifeless, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal environmental data.
But because these contaminants are released gradually and in some cases not tracked or regulated, they attract much less attention than a massive spill such as the recent one in West Virginia.
“I’ve made a career of body counts of dead fish and wildlife made that way from coal,” said Dennis Lemly, a U.S. Forest Service research biologist who has spent decades chronicling the deformities pollution from coal mining has caused in fish.
Speaking of energy, environmentalists are calling on the Obama administration to abandon the “all of the above” approach to energy policy. MEC was not among the groups that signed the letter to the president, but we’ve written here before about how “all of the above,” while a fine slogan, is a lousy policy.
And in transportation, officials plan to study a bus rapid transit line connecting Bay City and Detroit, while such intercity bus services are growing in popularity among young travelers. Meanwhile, trails advocates gather in northern Michigan to discuss ways to connect the state’s trail networks, and-okay, so this one’s kind of an internal link-MEC’s Dan Sommerville looks at the return on investment for passenger rail. (Spoiler alert: It’s a great investment!)
Lynx photo courtesy Keith Williams via Flickr.