The Cost of Energy

November 8th, 2010

An article in the NYT this morning brings up the difficulty of going green in the energy sector: cost.

According to the article, alternative energy providers are running into financial trouble as a result of the recession. Mainly, the recession has reduced demand for energy, thus reducing the cost of conventional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. It’s a simple supply-demand relationship.

Unfortunately, for the alternative energies, they are still too young to be cost-effective in this kind of market. So, energy utilities around the country are opting out of contracts for wind and solar power in favor of the coal and gas supplies that will be easier on their customer’s wallets.

This is creating massive financial uncertainty for the alternative providers, and is making the entire industry weaker as fewer investors stay in the space.

Honestly, I’m not surprised to hear this news. It is simple economics. People need to watch their wallets, and these are hard times.

However, I am tired of the false reality that we currently live in. The price you as a customer pay for energy is not reflective of the damage being done to our planet. You aren’t currently paying the price for the destruction of ecosystems in Virginia from mountaintop removal practices. You aren’t currently paying the price for the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico. You aren’t currently paying the price for the health effects that will come from our conventional coal and gas extraction and processing techniques.

You aren’t paying it now, but you will pay it later. If we don’t support the development of alternatives to the conventional “cheap” energy we currently enjoy, it’s going to bite us in the ass down the road.

The piper always comes home for payment.


Check out Green Tech Today on the TWiT Network –

5 Responses to “The Cost of Energy”

  1. isoughtajam on November 8, 2010 1:12 pm

    Great post.

    Not only does the price to the consumer not reflect the damage to the planet being done by coal and fossil fuels, but it doesn’t reflect the real price of those ‘dirty’ energy sources!

    According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Federal subsidies for fossil fuels totaled $557 billion. Compare that to the $45 million that went to wind and solar in 2009, that everyone is clamoring about.

    Not even the economic argument has a leg to stand on.

    – via Al Gore:
    – original article:

  2. dusanmal on November 8, 2010 1:54 pm

    “The price you as a customer pay for energy is not reflective of the damage being done to our planet” – is where your thinking goes wrong. Have our ancestors thought in such manner, there would be no fire in their cave… Considering “damage” to be any change to Earth which would not occur if we were not present and active is wrong.

    Speaking strictly in terms of evolution it is duty of our species to spread and use resources than adapt to new conditions. What you call “damage” some may call “change in ecosystem”. I find latter way more appropriate. We are natural living part of the ecosystem on Earth. We impact it as any other species. There is no “good” or “bad” impact. Important part for us is that we adapt to any change and find new resources to use as old ones vain. That process will eventually bring on alternative energy sources to the front. At that time they will be useful and cheap. Meanwhile new and different ecosystems will emerge in what you perceive as “damaged parts of the Earth” (ex. W.Virginia). They are not damaged. They just changed (much less may I say than area around Mt. St. Helens).

    Assuming that our natural actions are somehow supernatural and that we have some stewardship responsibility for Earth no other species has is religion. Not much difference in that line of New Age thinking vs. opening lines of Bible. Science sez’ that we are one of freely competing species in a life-game that has no rules but that strongest survive.

  3. Dave Hampson on November 8, 2010 7:13 pm

    I agree with you. One economic factor that needs to kick in, is the economy of scale. Renewable energy can compete, IF produced at the same scale as non-renewable. Then when you factor in environmental damage, renewable energy will come out way ahead.

    Governments needs to take a stand. There would be no television w/o the government. In a free market, nobody would by a TV because there was nothing to watch, and nobody would produce because there were no TV’s. So the gov’t stepped in for a little while, and now look how ubiquitous television is.

    The problem with Renewable energy, is that we already have a standing infrastructure. In the above example, there was no TV beforehand, so it was easy to sell to the public. With energy, why provide subsidies for something we already enjoy?

    OK, most of understand why we need to do this, but it is very difficult to get the point across, especially in hard times. Obama was to use renewable energy AS economic stimulus, but there is just too much resistance.


  4. David Hampson on November 9, 2010 1:15 am

    Dusanmal, we have had fires in the caves, and it ruined many of our ancestors.

    On of the pop culture mysteries out there, is what happened to the Anasazi. But we do know what happened to them. They cultivated, and cultivated the arid land, until it could not support them anymore. This is why they abandoned their amazing cliff houses and such. The thing is though, the surviving people were able to move somewhere else and exploit the environment there. This is Human history— exploiting the local environment, dieing off, then finding more territory to exploit.

    Historian have used the phrase Peak Wood as we use the term Peak Oil.

    Ethiopia used to be the richest country in the world because of their amazingly vast resources.

    In the 21st century however, there are simply too many humans, and too few places left for us to exploit.


  5. DataJack on November 9, 2010 7:54 am

    Well said. It’s the “Walmart” effect. Too many people want too many things at too low of a price – so things like quality, ecology, health, etc. appear to have less value. As you say, that is a false reality.

    Speaking of reality – what is the progress on the “Unicorn Billboard”?

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind