From an editorial Monday in the Kansas City Star:
U.S. power production trends offer an unusual scenario: Theres something to love for Big Oils supporters and environmentalists.
While Americas longstanding love affair with fossil fuels is far from over, Americas more recent embrace of renewable energy is going strong.
At first glance, these would seem to be contradictory conclusions.
Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration paint a nuanced and fascinating picture of power production. The agency reports that between 2007 and 2012:
• Natural gas production jumped 25 percent, largely because its cost has plummeted.
• Coal production slumped about 15 percent to its lowest level in a quarter century. Coal has been displaced by natural gas at many power plants. The net sum of this trade has been very positive financially for consumers and for air quality around the country because using natural gas produces fewer harmful emissions than burning coal does.
• Thanks largely to more exploration in North Dakota and Texas, oil production grew 28 percent to its highest level since 1995.
• Meanwhile, wind energy production surged 340 percent. Thats a significant accomplishment toward producing cleaner-burning power. However, wind energy still was just 1.7 percent of the countrys total power production in 2012.
• As for solar power, its production has almost tripled since 2007, yet it remains a statistically insignificant part of the nations power grid.
Theres no doubt that oil, coal and natural gas remain crucial contributors to the U.S. economy. So the Obama administration must follow through on efforts to make cars more fuel efficient, and Congress must not weaken national air quality standards. Cleaner coal plants must be pursued.
Its encouraging that public investments in renewable power especially wind energy have begun to pay off in measurable terms. They deserve to be continued in Washington and the states.
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