But times change. In the 21st century, we must change how we create and consume energy. The status quo has a price and we must transition before we irreparably damage our planet.
The good news is that we have safe, reliable and clean alternatives and they’re getting better every day. In this column, we’ll explore energy as we know it and shed some light on how and why we should move away from dirty fuels.
Change won’t be easy. There are international and domestic pressures from those that profit off the old way of doing things. We’ve fought wars over oil. In fact, President Donald Trump said recently in a reference to the second Iraq war, “We should’ve kept the oil… maybe you’ll have another chance.”
The landscape looks different when we power our cars with sunlight and batteries.
Closer to home, Florida sends billions of dollars out of state each year to bring fuels – like coal, natural gas and uranium – in from elsewhere. On the other hand, clean energy keeps our dollars working locally creating good paying jobs that can’t be exported. The Solar Foundation just reported that 1 in 50 U.S. jobs are in solar.
And when we harness the power of the sun, the wind and the waves, we eliminate pollution and its steep price. One of the casualties of running big power plants is the massive use of water – affecting both water quality and quantity. The U.S. Geological Survey reports in 2010, power plants accounted for 45 percent of total water withdrawals. Locally, we see a growing threat to drinking water from FPL’s Turkey Point nuclear reactors and their leaking cooling canals. The cost of this disaster is left to be seen.
Energy matters. It requires us to balance the risks and weigh our alternatives to be smarter about how we power our lives.
Look at the upheaval in telecommunications. Rotary dial phones gave way to smart phones. We went from 5 channels to endless TV choices available on demand. Super Bowl 51, the most live-streamed Super Bowl ever had 1.7 million viewers per minute. Fox Sports says 43 percent of ages 14-25 view content on mobile devices and not televisions.
An energy revolution equally transformational is underway. As in telecommunications, costs are dropping. Technology has progressed and battery storage to deal with the intermittency of renewable energy is dramatically improved. Investing in what’s next is key. No less than the future of the planet is at stake.
Much has been made of late about this country’s place in the world. As to renewables, only China outspends us. They will invest $361 billion in renewable power by 2020. Coming in second, US investments in 2015 were up 17 percent over 2014 at $44 billion. That’s a race where we all win.
In 1931, Thomas Edison said, “I’d put my money on solar energy … I hope we don’t wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Too bad we didn’t listen.
Susan Glickman is the Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. She has worked on climate and energy issues for nearly two decades. Susan is the Founding Chair of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and serves as a Volunteer Florida Commissioner. For more information, visit www.cleanenergy.org.