Electricity and Our Future

Annual MeetingIt would be great to just plug into a socket, use electricity and be done with it. There’s more to it than that.

We take lighting after sundown for granted, as we do preserving food in the ice box and proper functioning of the myriad of appliances in a modern home.

Since before the Christian Era, humans have attempted to understand how our universe works. I was reminded of this while doing research on tonight’s supermoon lunar eclipse, the mechanics of which were worked out by the ancients around 200 B.C.E., according to Robert Mutel at the University of Iowa.

Since the industrial revolution began, humans have increased development of community solutions to improve lives. The expansion of electrical usage is one of the great things to emerge, transforming lives where whale oil, then kerosene were the primary fuels used to illuminate darkness.

People continue to pay limited attention to electricity. Friday the Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative annual meeting was held at the Teamsters hall in Cedar Rapids.

The report from staff was that while the number of new connections was down in 2014, crews found plenty of maintenance work to do. The organization is financially sound.

The event turns out a lot of elderly couples who use the occasion to get out of the house, socialize with friends and neighbors, and take advantage of the free lunch, door prize drawing and gifts. Among this year’s gifts was a portable mobile phone charger, something even octogenarians might use.

LED - Incandescent Light Bulb Demonstration

LED – Incandescent Light Bulb Demonstration

A demonstration comparing electricity usage of incandescent and LED light bulbs was set up outside. When the demonstrator threw a switch, changing which bulb was turned on, the change in speed of the rotating gear on the electrical meter indicating usage was obvious. The message was buy energy efficient light bulbs and when you do, look at the number of lumens rather than wattage when picking one.

While attendees ate lunch from their laps on folding chairs — choice of cheeseburger or chicken sandwich with sides of baked beans and potato salad — a slide show enumerated financial incentives for home owners and businesses to take advantage of to reduce electricity usage when installing new appliances or constructing a new home or business.

Would that life were so simple when it comes to electricity.

The REC has this statement about how their electricity is generated on its current website.

Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative is committed to providing electricity that is reliable, cost effective and sustainable. One hundred percent of our electric power needs are provided by Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO), a generation and transmission cooperative.

CIPCO meets our energy needs with a diverse fuel mix of coal, nuclear, hydro, landfill gas, wind, natural gas and oil energy resources. In 2013, approximately 95 percent of the power CIPCO provided to its members was generated right here in Iowa; and over 60 percent of its electricity is generated from carbon free resources that minimize the impact to our natural environment.

Specific generating capacity is listed on the CIPCO website.

CIPCO Map of Generating Sources 9-27-15

CIPCO Map of Generating Sources 9-27-15

There is some political posturing here, in that CIPCO draws electricity from the NextEra Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa’s lone nuclear reactor. One assumes that is part of the “carbon free resources” mentioned, even though tremendous carbon-based resources are used in preparation for the moment heat is produced by nuclear chain reaction to boil water.

There’s probably more obfuscation here if one took the time for analysis. It’s not worth the time. Scientific evidence is clear that the ceaseless emission of CO2 pollution by electricity generation stations using fossil fuels is a primary cause of global warming. If people are distracted and assuaged by door prizes and flowery language, they won’t be for long. Global warming is impacting our climate in a pronounced, negative (to humans) way.

The Environmental Protection Agency recognized CO2 as a pollutant and this summer rolled out new regulations in the Clean Power Plan. As with all things governmental, there is a political aspect to the plan. Some states are resisting implementation.

Each state is required to locally implement the Clean Power Plan. In many ways the Clean Power Plan is an opportunity for democratization of how energy is produced and used, and we should take advantage of it, said historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz. He called for “an all-out mobilization with potentially far-reaching consequences,” as states adopt a plan.

In Iowa, Governor Branstad has been resistant to the Clean Power Plan, saying only that he would wait and see the final regulations before commenting. The future is well known as Iowa has consistently said the state will adopt no stricter regulations than those required by the federal government. One expects the state to take minimal steps in compliance, and only after hearing from the American Legislative Exchange Council, and waiting out initial litigation regarding the new rules.

The trouble is transition to renewable, carbon-free sources of electricity can’t occur fast enough to undo the CO2 pollution already emitted into the atmosphere. Urgency at our annual REC meeting only took the form of opening water bottles and cutlery packs with reduced physical capacity.

A lot of good work is going on regarding development of new electricity sources that directly harness the wind and sun. Our future is to accelerate development and implementation of carbon-free, nuclear free electricity. That means a lot more than using the phrase on the REC’s website or in a blog post.

People don’t react well to non-imminent threats. Our future is raising awareness of the climate crisis without causing people to withdraw from society.

While looking up a link for this post, I saw a Bobby Jindal web ad on my article. Jindal referred to the negativity in our world and said, “It’s time to turn to God.” Maybe. For those of us already oriented that direction, there is plenty of work to be done on earth to improve the human condition. Mitigating the causes of global warming is an important part of it.

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