Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I'm going to tackle three questions from "Where You At?" all at once, because they are all so closely related:
24. What energy costs you the most money? What kind of energy is it?
25. What developed and potential energy resources are in your area?
26. What plans are there for massive development of energy or mineral resources in your bioregion?
Here in Phoenix, Arizona, if we are talking about the sort of energy that powers our cars, homes, computers and other appliances, (versus psychic energy or fuel for the body) I'll guess that what we pay for nuclear energy probably tops that of gasoline, coal, wind-generation, solar cells, hydropower or natural gas, all of which factor into our transportation, household and lifestyle uses of electrical energy. But, what we pay on our utility bills and what the various forms of energy actually "cost" are two different things. This is because all forms of energy that we are billed for rarely account for unseen and unknown costs of extraction, generation and massive changes to the landscape and environment that are necessary to produce that energy.
Solar energy is the most abundant and most under-utilized source of energy in Phoenix. If every roof and every billboard had solar panels, if every building had incorporated passive solar design features, this city could probably power the nation. But we are woefully behind on these efforts.
Fortunately, new interest in renewable resources has inspired public utility companies to invest in solar, geothermal and wind generation. Unfortunately, these "green" energy sources aren't exactly benign when implemented at a massive scale. Before you rally behind solar utilities, understand that in order to create a multi-acre solar field, the landscape essentially must be sterilized and graded. The beautiful photos of sheep and cattle grazing in green meadows beneath solar panels are a myth. This is what those places really look like:
Is this a better use of the landscape than, say, the suburban sprawl that ultimately uses the energy produced by the utility? Or, for instance, a fully functioning ecosystem that supports multitudes of lifeforms? Or agriculture? Rooftops, yes!!! But taking more of our precious wildlands, no!!!!!