In the classic poem by Robert Frost, a traveler faces two divergent paths and the pivotal decision of which one to follow. He recognizes the significance of the moment and imagines telling the story in the future,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.Last Thursday, Kansas faced a similar decision. Should it take the conventional path by allowing developers to build a new coal-fired power plant to provide electricity while contributing more global warming pollution to our atmosphere? Or should it take the less-traveled route, reject the permit for the plant, and pursue an alternate path? Somewhat surprisingly, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment denied the request for the permit, citing the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. Around the U.S., communities are facing decisions similar to the one in Kansas, and are struggling mightily to choose the optimal course. Many are avoiding or delaying decisions to build new coal-fired plants. As one Citigroup analyst puts it, "Prophesies of a new wave of coal-fired generation have vaporized" and the Department of Energy just announced that of the 12,000 megawatts of new coal generation they expected to be built in 2005, only 329 megawatts were actually built. It is becoming increasingly clear that many people are not comfortable choosing the conventional coal path. Meanwhile, experts are predicting that electricity demand will outpace supply, creating an imbalance that will need to be addressed by adding new supply, of course. But my question is: Why is it that the only way we can fathom meeting demand growth projections is through supply-side additions? We need to turn those projections on their head, and invest in energy efficiency the way that coal plant developers want to invest in new pulverized coal plants. Will we look back some day and proclaim that taking that less-traveled road - the one that prioritizes energy efficiency over coal -- made all the difference? I certainly hope so.
Image: "Wind turbines at Beaumont, Kansas." Credit: flickr/brentdanley
"Meanwhile, experts are predicting that electricity demand will outpace supply, creating an imbalance that will need to be addressed by adding new supply, of course." OF COURSE?!
How about maybe Americans stop CONSUMING SO GODDAM MUCH!