These are truths universally acknowledged by the world’s financial and scientific communities, but many states and countries still burn fossil fuels as a prefered method of energy production nonetheless. After all, coal provides a third of all energy worldwide.
So how long will the hold of a more expensive, harmful, and planet-destroying resource last? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Currently in the United States, renewable energy is outpacing coal in both cost and profits. According to researchers at Yale University, 75% of current coal-fired plants in America are generating electricity at a more expensive rate than solar and wind powered competitors. While that’s bad news for coal today, it looks even bleaker in the near-future when wind and solar are expected to replace 86% of the nation’s coal plants as soon as 2025.
Mike O’Boyle, co-author of a report for Energy Innovation, also believes it’s only a matter of time before the financial advantages of renewables vs coal smothers the fossil fuel for good. “Even without major policy shifts, we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said O’Boyle. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar.”
But the numbers don’t stop there. A new report revealed that a whopping 42% of the global coal capacity is unprofitable, and the United States could save $78 billion by closing coal-fired plants and replacing them with solar and wind farms.
Coal’s loss of financial viability has come hand-in-hand with its exposure as a leading contributor to climate change. This year, carbon dioxide levels in our planet’s atmosphere surpassed 415 million parts per million. That’s the highest levels ever experienced by human beings on the planet, and the main contributor is the burning of fossil fuels like coal.
In direct contrast, renewable energy from solar and wind completely eliminates the need to burn fossil fuels, thus halting our march toward climate catastrophe and reverting the damage fossil fuels have done to our environment. If the finances and the planet aren’t enough, the health costs will tip the scales of any skeptic. In the United States alone, over 50,000 people die a year from coal-related illnesses.
So the question remains – why are we still using coal? Convenience is one reason, tax subsidies from our government are another, but the main reason coal is on life support instead of in a casket today is due to fear. Fear of change, of progress, and fear of admitting that we made a mistake by burning that little black rock. But the hallmarks of a great nation rest not in its ability to shackle itself to the past, but in its ability to position itself for a better future.
Worldwide, the future is in renewables.