Coal? Natural Gas? Solar? Wind? Oil? Nuclear? We Need a Strategic Energy Plan For Our Future!

One thing is certain about our country, we need power, lots and lots of power. How we get it in the future is something we need to start thinking about today.

Coal: Coal mining results in massive scars to the land and highly acidic runoff from mine waters. Carbon and particulate pollutants are released into the air from consumption. Coal ash pits for waste disposal are tremendous risks to nearby rivers. As an ongoing source of fuel what is there is finite, when it’s gone there won’t be anymore coming our way.

Coal was King in central Pennsylvania, it was the life’s blood of many of our communities. Shamokin and Mt. Carmel are prime examples of towns that boomed because of coal and are now in decline along with the decline of King Coal. The use of coal is on the wane, the economics of it do not make it viable. Even our local power plant in Shamokin Dam is now being converted to Natural Gas. Coal is our past, not our future.

Natural Gas: Natural gas collected through fracking, the high pressure injection of massive amounts of water into subterranean rock beds, results in bedrock fractures damaging enough to cause earthquakes in previously non-earthquake experiencing areas. Fracking produces massive amounts of highly contaminated, sometimes radioactive, waste water (280 billion gallons in 2012). Significant impact on ground water occurs as evidenced by well contamination in fracking regions. As an ongoing source of fuel what is there is finite, when it’s gone there won’t be anymore coming our way.

Oil: In 2014 BP estimated there is enough oil in the world to last 53 years at the 2014 production rates . So now we’re down to 49 years… do we wait 45 years until we start working on alternative energy sources?

Nuclear: Since the first commercial nuclear power plant came on-line in 1957 there have been 134 built, 35 have been decommissioned leaving 99 still in operation. The last of these reactors became operational in 1996. Originally thought to have a useful life of 40 years, the NRC approved 74 reactors to extend their operations an additional 20 years. Many of these reactors are now approaching the 60 year mark and the NRC is expecting to be asked for another 20 year extension. Would you want an 80 year old reactor, only designed to last for 40 years, sitting in your backyard? (The Berwick reactor went on-line in 1982… 36 years and ticking).

The costs of building reactors had been unable to compete with other energy sources. However, there are four reactors currently under construction. The beginnings of a nuclear resurgence due to impending depletion of fossil fuels? The potential for nuclear accidents, the disposal of radioactive waste and the eventual need to dispose of the reactors themselves are downsides just too massive to make this an acceptable full-scale alternative.

Solar: A 1,000 acre solar farm in Minnesota opened in 2016 and is expected to provide enough energy for 20,000 homes. There are 4,223 households in Sunbury (just using that as a town representative of our area). If production is proportionally scalable, to power the city of Sunbury it would take 172 acres of solar panels, an area approximately ¼ of a square mile. Is a field of solar panels a pretty sight, probably not, but for an infinitely renewable source of energy maybe we should be willing to make some compromises. Admittedly the solar panel manufacturing process produces some toxic waste and disposal of panels after their 20-25 year useful life poses its own problems. Hopefully technological advances in a relatively new and rapidly advancing industry will solve both these problems.

Wind: A 1 megawatt wind turbine will power 225-300 households. You might have seen the wind turbines near Wilkes-Barre, those are actually 2 megawatt turbines. It would take 7-9 of those 2 megawatt turbines to power Sunbury. The neat thing about wind turbines is that the land they stand on can be multipurpose: it can be farmed, a recreational park, etc.. Not the most attractive machinery, but again, if we can have an infinitely renewable source of energy we will need to make some compromises.

Conclusion: When it comes to our energy policies we must turn away from depletable energy sources. We must make ourselves energy independent of sources outside of the country by encouraging research and extensive implementation of wind and solar energy. True energy independence is using energy we produce here that is not subject to international events. Solar, wind, and hydro won’t be interrupted by foreign wars or oil supply interruptions.

Solar farms and wind farms: energy sources that don’t ravage the environment in the collection process, don’t spew carbon emissions and particulates in the consumption process and don’t run out!

As your State Representative in Harrisburg I will work to steer Pennsylvania’s energy policy and industries to what will inevitably be the energy sources of the future: Wind and Solar. We need to embrace these technologies and to position Pennsylvania as a manufacturing haven for the Solar and Wind industries. There is a tremendous potential for job creation if Pennsylvania pushes itself to become a leading proponent of these energy sources and creates a favorable economic environment to entice manufacturers to locate here.

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Friends of Sarah Donnelly
4939 State Route 54
Elysburg, PA 17824


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