My oldest granddaughter’s birthday party was Saturday afternoon. Before I could help her celebrate, I had to work on my driveway.
There I stood at a small hill where I had spun out twice Friday night before conquering it on my third try. Saturday morning, I used a shovel to chip a half inch to three quarters of an inch of ice off that span of driveway that probably measured 15 feet long but felt more like 45. As I was tossing the last shovelful off to the side, I thought, I don’t know how much more of this global warming I can take.
As of this writing, the electricity at my house has been out since 2:47 a.m. Thursday, but the house is reasonably warm because of propane. This fossil fuel is keeping us going on a cold, cloudy windless stretch that might not end until later this week.
I don’t fault the Appalachian Power workers for not having the power back on sooner. The short trip between my house and downtown Huntington shows many ice-covered trees draping power lines and numerous trees that had fallen across the road. These workers have a hard job in bitter cold.
And allow me to thank whoever it is that travels the secondary roads looking for fallen trees to remove. Those people have been busy these past seven days, and they deserve our thanks, too.
However, we do have to address plans by some people to rid our electric grid of fossil fuels and replace them with renewables and with programs that reduce the demand for electricity.
In this part of the United States, that’s just not a reasonable expectation at this time.
The electric grid in this part of the country is managed by PJM Interconnection, which covers the territory from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia west through Ohio and West Virginia and into central Kentucky. It includes part of northeast Indiana, the southwest corner of Michigan and the Chicago area.
At last check, about 5% of the electricity being used in the region was coming from renewable sources, with wind being almost all of it. Solar power provided less than two-tenths of 1% of electricity when it was needed most.
Nuclear power provided 30% of the region’s needs. The two main fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — provided 36% and 28%, respectively. That was about 64% of our region’s need.
My driveway musings also led me to ask how we are supposed to convert our cars and trucks over to battery-powered electric motors, regenerative braking and the like at the same time we’re taking fossil fuels off line and making it more difficult to build more fossil fuel plants. Legislative mandates are nice if we have the technology and the resources to meet them, but sometimes reality does not coincide with green dreams.
We might reach that point in a generation or two — when the Baby Boomers’ numbers are diminishing and Generation X is deep into retirement age. But right now, when we must deal with the immediate problem, renewables are not the short-term answer. Fossil fuels and nuclear are.