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The (energy) Times are A-Changin’

When I was growing up in the 70’s, natural gas was touted as the “clean energy.” Electricity was the evil, dirty energy. This is a paradigm I’ve been living for decades.

But things are different now and I still find myself being surprised by what seems such a swift change in the energy landscape. Just 15 years ago, when planning the housing community in which I live, we made a point to spec gas boilers for our heating, gas dryers and gas stoves. We smugly felt we were doing the right thing. Now those appliances feel more like part of the problem than the solution.

smokestacksIn days gone by, electricity was produced with coal creating tremendous emissions and scarring the earth but natural gas was a by-product of oil refining. These days, natural gas is often obtained by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) that creates groundwater contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes.

Fortunately, the fossil fuels of coal, petroleum, and natural gas are becoming increasingly obsolete for generating the energy upon which we depend. Electricity can be generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind which are becoming more economically viable, and therefore, more prolific. In Sonoma County, we source much of our renewable energy geothermally from nearby geysers. In fact, Sonoma residents can elect to pay a small percentage more on their electricity bill for 100% local, renewable electricity, offered by the local Community Choice energy program, Sonoma Clean Power.

In other words, whereas it once made environmental sense to power appliances with natural gas, in just a few years, we’ve learned that electricity – sourced renewably – is the way to go.

Another example of the fast-paced changes of energy comes from the transportation sector. I remember when I first heard someone say many years ago that electric cars didn’t pollute.  I pointed out that emissions were removed from the car but still generated at the power plant, where thick smoke went hurling into the atmosphere. Regulations stemming from the Clean Air Act have helped reduce emissions from power plants, thankfully. As more renewable energy comes online, electric vehicles (EVs) make more sense than ever. And if an EV owner has solar panels on their own home, total transportation emissions truly weigh in at a satisfying zero.

Currently, in Sonoma County, electricity is a better environmental choice than both natural gas and gasoline. I’m sure my next car will be an electric vehicle when the old Prius dies. As an Evergreen customer, I’m also considering replacing my natural gas home appliances with electric models to further reduce my footprint. The times they are a-changin’!