The Silver Bullet

The big coal interests have a favored saying: “There is no silver bullet.” This old adage suggests there is no single solution to the growing energy needs and concerns of this country. While this is obviously true, the only solution (or “silver bullet”) that these charlatans ever talk about is “clean” coal. Ironically enough, “clean” coal is a fantasy notion as mythical as the werewolves and other monsters silver bullets were reputed to destroy.

For those unfamiliar with monster lore and mythology, silver bullets were capable of destroying everything from werewolves to vampires – creatures that had no other weakness or vulnerability. This metaphor is quite fitting to our dilemma of increasing energy demand while preserving the ecosystem, for it is a dilemma that seems insurmountable and unsolvable. Our civilization is built upon electricity and the idea of continuing our lifestyles without it is unfathomable to many Americans. But, as with the legendary monsters of old, a silver bullet does exist to address and conquer this problem – at least metaphorically.

It is not wind power, or solar power, or even energy efficiency, nor is it some yet-to-be-discovered technology that we hang unreasonable hopes upon. It is a mindset. A way of viewing the world free from the burdensome fear and closed-mindedness of the energy industry’s status quo. The simple knowledge, which has been known for decades, that we don’t need fossil fuels to generate our power. That the wasteful practices of our society can be ceased and a new era of responsible consumerism (in all regards, not just with energy) can be envisioned and achieved.

This means the practical solution of incorporating energy efficiency measures, developing and implementing new wind, solar, hydro, wave, geothermal and other renewable energy technologies, adding energy storage and changing the ways in which we live – not for the worse (as some would try and scare us into believing) but for the better. The accusation from coal barons that energy revolutionaries only want to try one solution (a silver bullet) is so misleading as to be insulting. “Green” suggestions are a “silver-shot” approach that address the problem from many angles: increasing energy diversity, promoting energy independence, and producing energy in a clean, sustainable, and economically sound fashion.

The world requires the abandonment of smoke-stack energy generation. Not immediately of course, but gradually over the next few decades.

Not only are coal prices increasing, but the long-hidden costs of coal are finally being recognized. From the mines to the smokestacks, coal is a filthy and expensive method of energy generation. Even the cost of building materials for the plants themselves is rising sharply.

For over a hundred years now, coal has been the primary method with which we generate power. And for all that time, the true cost – the cost to our ecosystem and to public health – has gone ignored. Now, finally, the coal profiteers are being forced to address some of these hidden costs (such as global warming gasses, mercury contamination, ecosystem destruction, and adverse health effects) and it is proving that coal is no more economical than other methods of power generation.

Carbon legislation is on the horizon and protests world-wide are bringing attention to coal-fired generation and its contribution to global warming. The energy revolution must happen, and on an even greater scale than it is now, if we are to successfully continue our civilization. The naysayers and critics of renewable power refuse to acknowledge the reality of this situation and should either change their tune or stop singing. We must progress and change, and we need to start yesterday.