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Choices, Part 2

Choices-part-2It has been a beautiful fall in Iowa. The tree colors all decided to peak at the same time, and then linger. The weather has been unseasonably warm and enjoyable. We’ve had many hours of enjoying the colors from our deck.

When we built the house 11 years ago, we got the builder’s obligatory two trees in the backyard, species indeterminate. Over the years, we have made various choices of additional trees and landscaping. The goal was to make that part of our yard pleasant, enjoyable and colorful.

I reflected on these choices we have made over the years, and was thankful many of them resulted in the beauty we enjoy.

In part one of this series, I attempted to make the point that energy-related choices we are making in the U.S. have consequences.

We seem to be making choices that increasingly reject the traditional base-load generation options, which are typically coal, nuclear and hydro. These sources reliably and economically serve the bulk of our electric demand, regardless of date or time of day.

As a nation, we are increasingly investing aggressively with wind and solar generation, which at this time cannot and do not function as base-load units. They generate electricity only when the wind blows and the sun shines.

Let’s take a look at just one illustration of how these trends are playing out in real life.

New York State has a de facto moratorium on fracking. Nearly 79% of New Yorkers support the moratorium. This support is consistent across all political, racial, and geographic lines. Fifty-six percent oppose fracking as a technology. The basis for these rankings appears to be a general feeling that the potential harm from fracking far outweighs the benefits.

Traditional generation fuel choices are also not warmly embraced. Only 40% approve of coal, 48% approve of nuclear and 25% approve of natural gas. The poll results seem to point to general disfavor for those three generation sources, along with fracking.

At the same time a vast majority of New Yorkers support renewable energy. Ninety-two percent prefer increased solar, 89% want increased wind and 76% would like to see more hydro.

Consequently, it appears New Yorkers are making choices to move away from base-load to renewable generation sources. As I noted in part one of this series, it is important to seriously and thoughtfully evaluate if we are making good choices, because our choices have significant consequences.

I think of a future New York winter, where it is cold with reduced sunlight and little wind. If policies are enacted to satisfy the desires captured in this poll, I wonder how warm millions of New Yorkers will be as a result of their choices.

As we near another election in a few days, it is important for all of us to carefully consider the choices we will make at the ballot box, and the values represented by those for whom we will vote. The ones we elect will make choices on our behalf, and their choices will have consequences.

Well, the beautiful leaves have faded and fallen, and I need to deal with another consequence of my decisions. Where did I leave the rake?

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.