Just a couple weeks ago I was extolling the virtues of natural gas as a bridge fuel to the future. Sure, from the perspective of AGW, it is not the perfect long term solution, but it is better than coal or oil and it is much cheaper (right now). I was heartened to read the other day that natural gas electric power generation in the U.S. has surged so much in recent years that it is getting close to even with coal. Coal currently generates 36.7% of our electricity while natural gas generates 29.4%. A revelation of the data is that the oft-cited statement that the U.S generates 50% of its electricity from coal is no longer true – not by a long shot. We are not a coal-electric country anymore. The electric cars on the road cannot accurately described as coal cars. Now I hope that we will also move away from fossil-fuel cars altogether, but that is a bigger challenge because electric cars are still quite expensive. The good news is that the technology works! Exibit A is the Tesla Model S sedan that achieves over 300 miles per charge – and it looks gorgeous. Add in future autonomous vehicles and road travel will not only be cleaner and more efficient but safer as well (cool video of the google car). Not everyone is all “jazzed” about more electronics coming too vehicles. Along with autonomous cars perhaps coming to roads near you, the U.S. government will require that all vehicles come installed with a black box starting in the year 2015. I agree it is kind-of creepy, that the government will be able to monitor your driving habits and where you are at all times in your vehicle. I know that the point is not to monitor people, but some authoritarian governments have been known to abuse spying powers throughout history, it is just a fact. So maybe the fact that more and more younger people are not driving and buying cars is a good thing. They can save a ton of money by not owning a car. Most urban centers have plenty of means for getting around town. Not moving out into the suburbs and buying a car means that you will not have to spend so much of your life stuck in traffic jams. Hopefully this trend will continue and there will be less pollution and smog from automobiles in the future. I get the fact that freedom and cars have seemingly gone hand-in-hand throughout much of American history, but things change, and I think this change (younger generations not buying carts) is one for the better. Here are a couple of more articles about the possible decline of the United States of Suburbia, often labeled by yours truly as sprawling environmental disasters. Article 1. Article 2.
But I digress. Back to the natural gas story, the main reason why power companies are switching to natural gas is because the price is quite low and the U.S. has a HUGE supply that could easily last decades (maybe peak oil is not such a big threat - something I have argued for years). People prefer low prices. An interesting survey recently found that a majority of Americans wouldn’t mind paying up to 13% more for electricity, if they knew it came from alternative sources. I doubt it. The reality is in the market. People want cheaper prices for the most part. That is why power companies are using nat gas more right now. If people were so willing to pay 13% more, power companies would have already made more of a move toward wind and solar.
Now an update on the snowmelt contest. I walked up Rib Mountain to get a picture of the snow yesterday. There is still a sizable pile of snow but it is noticeably shrinking. The pictures probably do not do the melting justice. That being said, we are most likely a few days away from the winning date. Good luck to everyone who predicted dates in mid to late May.
Have a nice Monday! Meteorologist Justin Loew