Dick Baynton

This word has many meanings such as political power but one of the best known uses of the word relates to overhead ‘power’ lines, ‘power’ generation plants and other applications related to electricity.

There have been many conversations and media reports about preservation of the earth’s natural resources of oil, coal, gas, wood and other flammable products that produce electricity from heat energy. Our attention over the past few years has been directed toward ‘renewable resources’ from sun (solar), wind (air) and water (tides, waterfalls, dams). Currently huge batteries are being built to store solar and other renewable sources of electric power. Cars and trucks are being designed and built to harness electricity to power vehicles for carrying passengers and goods in cars, trucks and buses.

Renewable fuels don’t fit in every application such as ships (marine), airplanes (aviation), railroads (locomotives) and many other applications The missing link in the massive change from fossil fuels to solar, wind and other sources of electrical energy is the turmoil of training, retraining and moving of people who have spent their lives mining and shipping coal and drilling for oil and gas.

In 2009 then President Obama proclaimed that the U.S. was going out of the coal business. In fact, he mentioned in a national speech that a company could enter the coal business but it would probably go bankrupt. Using differing logic, President Trump was eager to mine, export and utilize this underground source of energy that had been produced by Hopi Native Americans in the 1300’s and produced by European immigrants since about 1740 when it was first mined in Virginia.

The precipitous economic change was devastating; by 2016, 25% of the coal industry was in bankruptcy. In the 95 years from 1923 to 2016 employment in the coal mining industry has fallen from 863,000 workers to 50,000 in 2016. Coal exports have slumped from 62 million tons in 2010 to 50.5 million tons in 2016. At $196 per ton, this amounted to $9.9 billion in exports.

In the spirit of replacing coal with renewable energy sources, the coal business involving mining companies, railroads, trucks and peripheral small business was heading for extinction within a few years. The coal industry was heavily dependent on exports.

Using government logic stuffed with wisdom, Uncle Sam has been offering a $7,500 subsidy (tax credit) when a person buys a new EV (electric vehicle). Remember that government subsidies (tax credits) come directly from the purses and wallets of taxpaying citizens. The Pacific Research Institute recently reported that almost 80% of buyers in the AGI (adjusted gross income) brackets were over $100, 000 and $200,000. Taxpayers making $35,000 are subsidizing buyers of EV’s meaning that the average worker is supporting the wealthier taxpayer’s car-buying habits.

General Motors, sometimes called Government Motors since 2008, has prepared a plan to get big government even deeper into buying EV’s by suggesting that all new homes include EV chargers and government subsidized private workplace and public charging stations. It is important to think in terms of ecological reasons for building an endless number of charging stations.

However let’s keep in mind that up to half of the electric current stored in a battery or available at a charging station was produced by fossil fuels. Don’t forget also that household electric bills will increase and that the annual maintenance cost of roof-top solar panels will cost up to $1,000.

Due to new energy sourcing rules in California, all new homes are mandated to include solar panels costing over $18,000. A California legislative office estimates that new homes in their state cost $50,000 to $75,000 more than in other states; low cost housing units cost about $332,000. W

hen coal industry workers lose their jobs, state and federal governments must pay for training and re-training and unemployment benefits. The cost of living is juiced upward with every new square mile of solar panels and every new wind turbine generator costing $1.7 to $8.5 million each.

Environmental issues are critically important to our way of life but we must also consider economic conditions (e.g. cost of living) and demographics (moving into new industries, new locations & training) in planning our nation’s ‘power’ future.

Dick Baynton


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