One of the best ways to halt the damaging process of global climate change is to change our energy sources. Energy produced from fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide that ends up in the atmosphere and prevents sunlight from being reflected back into space. This process causes heat to get trapped within the atmosphere, heating the entire planet. There are , however, that do not release carbon dioxide, so using them is much safer for the planet.
Photo: American Public Power Association on Unsplash
Many argue that we ought to continue using fossil fuels, specifically coal, as an energy source because they are cheaper than the renewable alternatives. This, however, is not necessarily true. More than ever, renewable energy costs are dropping as this type of energy becomes much more cost-effective. Wind energy using turbines and solar energy using solar panels are costly in installation and distribution, but not in creating the energy itself. Since the wind blows by itself and the sun comes up every day, there is nothing additional that needs to be done to get that energy once the original machine has been installed. As technology improves, the amount of energy that we are able to obtain from renewable sources is increasing, and this increased efficiency lowers costs as well. According to Tina Smith, “the total cost of renewable energy is competitive with carbon-based fuel, and many times actually costs less.” Given this, the argument that fossil fuels are a better energy source because they cost less is not a valid one.
This can be seen in the specific example of Xcel Energy, an energy company in the Midwest. Due to the company switching over to wind energy, its customers will save $7.9 billion in the next thirty years. In the Great Plains, coal costs $30 per MW-hour, while wind costs $20, and this price will likely continue to fall. Clearly, wind energy is not only safer for the planet but also economically viable. For anyone who still doubts the economic advantages of wind power, Gregory Brew said, “economic, not environmental logic [is] driving utilities to adopt wind power, as Xcel plans to do.” It makes sense that companies need to do what is in their own best interests financially, so the fact that Xcel is switching to wind reveals that there is a strong economic incentive in switching to renewable energy sources.
Those who support the continued use of fossil fuels are going to have to find a new argument because the one about cost is clearly losing validity. As both companies and consumers see the benefits of renewable energy sources both economically and environmentally, we hope to see a continued rise of renewable energy use. After all, it is only with the widespread shift away from fossil fuels that we stand a chance of reversing the detrimental effects of global warming. As technology improves, this goal becomes more and more feasible, but of course, there is still a lot left to do.