Colorado, like many other states around the country, gets most of its energy from burning coal. Skeptics have criticized coal for being a pollutant, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased regulations on emissions from electric power plants, thereby making companies scale back their involvement with coal.
In order to meet the EPA guidelines, some power plants in Colorado are converting some of their plants to burn natural gas instead of coal, and shutting some coal-burning plants down altogether.
Natural gas is currently cheaper than coal and more environmentally friendly. It was therefore an easy decision for U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to endorse as a centerpiece of his platform for America's energy future.
At the same time, the low prices of natural gas are making it difficult for renewable energy sources like wind and solar to make a case for being cost-effective. While environmentalists are worried that the push for natural gas will simply get us hooked on another fossil fuel, Salazar says that the government will continue to pursue both gas and renewable energy sources going forward.
However, change may be slow and coal companies are not willing to give up their market share to newcomers. It is estimated that at the end of the decade, 48% of our energy will still come from coal-fired plants, but natural gas and renewables will make up a larger market share than ever before.
"I think it will become a centerpiece of our energy portfolio for the next century for a lot of reasons. It's one of the greatest opportunities we see for both our economic security, our national security and our environmental security." - Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary.
"The bar just got a bit higher for the entrance of some of these new and alternative technologies into the energy mix." -Dan Arvizu, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
1. What is coal? What does it do?
2. What is a fossil fuel? Can you name any?
3. What is a renewable energy resource?
1. Do you think natural gas is the way forward for energy? Why or why not?
2. What makes renewable energy sources more expensive in the short term? Do you think the investment will pay off later? Why or why not?
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