We spend a lot of time talking about the many positive benefits of solar energy, but the flip side of the discussion is at times just as important: The reason that solar isn’t taking off as fast as it could is because of the many incentives that serve to lower the cost of fossil fuels and make them seem like the only viable option.
However, that reliance on fossil fuels carries a heavy price, and sometimes the only way to see that high price is when there are major fossil fuel disasters stemming from our reliance on oil, gas and coal.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of these disasters, and it’s been a terrible couple of weeks for transporting fossil fuels — compounding an already-terrible seven months, since the Lac-Megantic oil train derailment and explosion last July that killed 47 people and destroyed the town.
• North Carolina: On Monday, a pipe under a Duke Energy coal-ash storage pond ruptured, sending as much as 82,000 tons of the highly toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants into the Dan River. (Photo above, courtesy of Appalachian Voices.) While Duke Energy and state water officials originally said that the water is safe to drink, the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources early on Wednesday warned that the water is not safe. And the effects are devastating: The AP reports seeing “gray sludge several inches deep, coating the riverbank for more than two miles. The Dan had crested overnight, leaving a distinctive gray line that contrasted with the brown bank like a dirty ring on a bathtub.”
• West Virginia: In early January, a little-known industrial chemical used for coal processing polluted the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians; a new report out of Charleston suggests that the spill caused $61 million in economic losses over the next four days, as businesses closed down, hitting particularly hard the lodging and service sectors.
And late last month, the West Virginia-based Mountain Institute released a report showing how solar could benefit the state’s environment and economy without competing with coal.
• Minnesota: In what is at best a near-miss for a large-scale disaster, a train carrying crude oil leaked 12,000 gallons of oil near Winona, Minn., along about 68 miles of railroad tracks. While that sounds like a lot, and spilling that much crude is no joke, 12,000 gallons is just half of one tanker car’s payload; and because the spill is so dispersed, the state has no plans for a cleanup at this time.
The Minnesota leak came even as federal regulators fined three firms for mislabeling the oil they shipped by rail — since some kinds of oil, particularly the oil out of the Bakken shale oil formation in North Dakota is likely more prone to explosion in an accident.
The post Another Reason for Solar: Fossil Fuel Disasters in N.C., W.V. and Minn. appeared first on Solar Power.