Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Save energy, create jobs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Could it really be this simple?

The Charlotte Business Journal's Frank Vinluan reports:

A new study finds that “aggressive adoption” of energy-efficiency programs in North Carolina could lower utility bills by $3.8 billion and create more than 30,000 jobs by 2020.

The report from Duke University and Georgia Tech, dubbed “Energy Efficiency in the South,” also found that energy efficiency would conserve water by cutting the amount of water that power plants require for cooling.

Across the South, energy efficiency would save $41 billion and create 380,000 jobs, the study says.

Policies that could improve energy efficiency include revamped building codes and appliance standards, as well as the creation of incentives to retrofit buildings. The study says the greatest potential for savings from energy efficiency would come from commercial buildings. Job creation would come from construction and manufacturing related to the energy-efficiency projects.

Read the rest of this article here.

You know what else energy efficiency will help us out with? Reducing the waste produced by electricity production. How about the lives of miners? How about our mountains?

Though it seems as simple as flipping a switch, the truth is energy production is a complex process that, for most energy users in our area, begins with the extraction of coal from our beautiful Appalachian mountains. It's then hauled by the train load — not train car load, train load — to coal plants.

In Charlotte, we are virtually surrounded by coal plants. There's the Allen station in Belmont. There's the 80-year-old Riverbend station just down the road from Uptown. There's the Marshall station on Lake Norman. There's Cliffside station 50 miles to the west, or upwind as some might say.

In order to limit air pollution, scrubbers are installed at those plants. The scrubbers trap some of the dangerous particles released when coal is burned by adding water. The water weights down the polluted particles so they drop instead of fly through the smoke stacks into our air.

That slurry is then pumped into holding ponds often held in place by earthen dams. The coal ash ponds associated with the coal plants listed above sit on the edge of the Catawba River. Most notably for Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the two high-hazard coal ash ponds behind the Riverbend coal plant are just upstream from our main drinking water intake on Mountain Island Lake.

The U.S. Environmental Agency has been trying to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste for more than 30 years. But, you can read all about that in a recent Charlotte Magazine profile I wrote about our Riverkeeper, David Merryman.

The Charlotte Observer's Bruce Henderson also wrote a recent article about coal ash detailing the Sierra Club's concerns: Report: N.C. ignores coal ash threat

There is nothing clean, easy or cheap about coal. Just ask the people in West Virgina: Bodies of all dead W.Va. miners recovered (AP)

So, what can you do? First of all, you can turn off and unplug all of the electronics you don't need in this moment. (There's nothing wrong with working by sunlight.)

Second, you can contact your state and national representatives and let them know that you want to see more renewable energy options. While you're at it, tell Duke Energy you're tired of seeing our mountains destroyed, our air polluted and our water compromised.

The upside: Renewable energy = jobs for Charlotte.

P.S. Coal is not a renewable resource.

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