America's Electrical Monster: Weekly Hiroshima-sized Bombs?

"An explosive power the size of a Hiroshima bomb - once a week."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Like most Americans, I would love to be able to drive without having to fill up with increasingly expensive gas - costly not only to our wallets, but to the environment and to geopolitics. Why not switch to a hybrid vehicle or even better, an electrical vehicle? Wouldn't an electrical vehicle offer a better, cleaner approach?

I imagine parking my new electrical vehicle in the garage, plugging it in overnight to recharge for a new day, unfettered by gas and oil, sleeping soundly. If only it could be so.

Of course, electricity is generated by a variety of sources, ranging from nuclear, oil, gas and coal. Where does your electricity come from? It depends on where you live. You can use this tool from the Environmental Protection Agency to find out. I tried it using my zip code in New Jersey, and learned that fully 40% of the electricity I use is generated from nuclear power, and 42% from coal {see graph below.} There's the rub.


The documentary film "The Last Mountain" was debuted recently at the Sundance Film Festival (the trailer can be viewed above) and begins with a startling statement by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. -- the process of mountaintop mining to extract coal can require -

"An explosive power the size of a Hiroshima bomb - once a week."

Do we need "weekly Hiroshima-sized bombs" to satisfy our appetite for electricity? Here's an excerpt from a recent film review:

It's true that watching "The Last Mountain" is partially an exercise in shock and despair. Our systemic dependence on dirty fuels is a deeply entrenched political and practical reality. But Haney's film, thankfully, is as optimistic as it is intelligent and incisive, envisioning a future in which we can make clean and renewable energy sources readily available to all. Haney's eloquent documentary transcends the battle being waged in West Virginia. Its realities and truths encompass all of us -- not just Americans but people everywhere whose rights, well-being and dignity are being trampled upon by the arrival of predatory corporations.

The focus of this documentary film, Massey Energy Company, presents themselves as "doing the right thing with energy" and as proud environmentalists:

Massey Energy Television Commercial from 2006, "Doing the Right Thing with Energy." Proud to be recognized for our reforestation efforts.

Can both of these perspectives be accurate? Of course not. Could the truth lie somewhere in between?

I think I'll hold off for now on purchasing that electrical vehicle - or should I buy one now?

More like this

Almost 70% of the energy here in RI comes from nuclear and natural gas.

I know neither of them has the greatest of environmental records but they are a damned sight better than coal, thought he process of fracking for natural gas concerns me.

There's an interactive thingy over at Scientific American:…

The article compares current hybrids with plug-in hybrids, which I thought was kind-of dumb - it should have compared plug-in hybrids with gas powered vehicles - but at least it gives you an idea of emissions associated with your vehicle depending on your location. Unfortunately, it does not account for things like mountain-top removal. Or fracking.

Mine's almost 50/50 nuclear and coal, which isn't surprising since I live less than three miles from a coal plant and less than ten from a nuke.

By Blitherypoop (not verified) on 04 Jun 2011 #permalink

Mine's all wind-powered from Green Mountain Energy. You know, the kind of mountains these bastards are blowing down.

By Special K (not verified) on 05 Jun 2011 #permalink

most buyers of electric,hybrids think they are doing great things for the environment and save money on mpg i think as on old country boy said we are kicking the can down the road.