It’s 6 p.m. and like so many, I am sitting in my living room watching breaking news on CNN. Soon after Anderson Cooper’s rant about this week’s “Ridiculousness,” as I am frantically searching through my cupboard for something to munch on, I hear a faint voice coming from the television talking about solving America’s “energy” problem. I look over at the TV; lo and behold it’s an anti-coal commercial discussing America’s worst fossil fuel.
At that moment I had an epiphany. Perhaps coal is not the worst fossil fuel. Anti-coal, anti-natural gas, anti-biofuels, I wanted to understand WHY! I decided to dig a bit deeper and find the REAL worst fossil fuel.
In no way were my intentions to defend the production and use of coal. I simply wanted hard facts and the truth. I began by using two criteria for my research:
1. Which fossil fuel costs Americans the most money?
2. Which fossil fuel emits the most carbon dioxide?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, for the last 15 years, petroleum has accounted for more carbon dioxide emissions than coal or natural gas.
More incredibly, Americans spent more than $700 billion on oil last year. The cost of coal on the other hand is 4.3 percent of that amount, or $30 billion annually.
Evidently, the root of the misconception about the relative CO2 contributions of fossil fuels partially stems from lumping electricity and transportation fuels together in one broad category of “energy.”
In reality, coal is used for electricity. The share of U.S. electricity that is generated from coal is forecasted to fall below 40 percent for the year, its lowest level since World War II. Four years ago, coal generated 50 percent of U.S. electricity. By the end of this decade, that number is projected to be near 30 percent, meaning that coal is a decreasing problem.
To significantly reduce both our spending and our carbon dioxide emissions, we must divert our attention, resources, and technological innovations to reducing our consumption of the worst fossil fuel – petroleum. Only by allowing alternative fuels to compete in the fuel market alongside gasoline can such a goal be attained.+