Current Situation of the U.S. Energy Policy - Canberk Taze

The United States is the second-biggest producer and consumer of electricity worldwide after China. It is also the biggest producer of oil. Since they are leading the world economy with 20 trillion U.S. dollars, they are in a high pressure when it comes to green energy initiative. United States should lead the G20 with its decisions on universal energy since G20 accounts for 78% of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions.

The United States is the highest producer of greenhouse gases when measured on a per capita basis. Overall, China is the world’s largest producer. Greenhouse gas emissions surged to a record high in 2018, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

According to the UNEP report, global emissions will need to be cut by more than 7% each year over the next decade to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Although the U.S. did decrease its carbon emissions by 14%, they did this in 12 years between 2005 and 2017.

On brighter news, the State of California is leading the U.S. as the most significant state with more environmental incentives than any other country. Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a 1 million solar roofs initiative into law in 2006. That goal has been achieved on December 13, 2019. One of the other goals of the bill was to generate 3 gigawatts of solar energy. They achieved that goal earlier than expected in 2015. Today, solar roofs in California generate 9 gigawatts of solar energy, equivalent to six natural gas power plants. It helps the world avoid 22 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Regrettably, California’s goal of being 100% clean energy state had hit a bump when California Public Utilities Commission allowed gas-burning facilities to keep operating until 2022 in a unanimous vote. The commission said that these facilities should keep running to ensure reliable electricity flow to Southern California. With a 40 million population, California manages to supply 50% of its electricity to this vast population with renewable energy. However, one-third of its energy is still generated from natural gas or fossil fuels. The commission has also ordered to buy 3.300 megawatts of new resources, enough to power 4.4 million homes. They have also prohibited the construction of new gas-only power plants.

On the same note, Los Angeles will build the first hydrogen-fueled power plant. To get rid of the last of its coal-generated electricity, they will build a natural gas plant in Utah. Since natural gas plants are still a danger to the environment, the Department of Water and Power of Los Angeles has pledged that the facility would eventually burn renewable hydrogen instead of natural gas. At first, the plant will burn 30% hydrogen and 70% natural gas when it opened in 2025. After that, the ratio will steadily change until 2045 when it starts to burn 100% hydrogen.

Furthermore, Baker Hughes signed a 10-year agreement with French-owned EDF Energy to power its 170 facilities in Texas with wind and solar energy. Company officials estimate that the wind and solar power deal will reduce the equivalent of 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over the 10-year term of the agreement. Equal to taking 27,000 cars off the roads, the deal will eliminate the equivalent to 12 percent of the company’s global carbon emissions. This agreement has been made 11 months after the company announced it would reduce net carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050.

On a related note, some of the steel plants in U.S. have set to run on wind and solar energy. The steel industry is responsible for 6% to 7% of global GHG emissions. Nucor Corporation’s new 250 million USD powerplant is set to be the first U.S. steel plant to run on wind energy. The company will supply its required power from the local company Evergy. Senior vice president of Evergy claimed that the U.S. sits in the Saudi Arabia of wind, and they can provide the customers with sustainability and price competitiveness.

Xcel Energy is also one of the companies to supply their needs with renewable energy, but this time it’s solar. They have reached an agreement with Lightsource BP in late September to develop a 250 million USD solar power facility that will power Xcel’s Steel facility. The plant will be the largest on-site solar plant to power a single customer, and the Steel facility is the first U.S. steel plant to be powered by solar energy. Xcel has further closed two of its coal facilities in the area to reach its renewable goals.

United States Steel has also taken action in November to reduce global GHG emissions by 20% by the year 2030. World Steel Association, which represents 80% of the worldwide steel production has also launched a program for a transition to a carbon-neutral steel economy.

Amazon has also announced three new wind farms in April 2019. This will help reach their goal of being powered by 100% renewables by the year 2030 and have zero-carbon emissions by the year 2040. According to CNBC, large wind and solar facilities not only contribute to companies reaching their environmental goals but also creates economic booms for rural communities.

On an interesting note, National Geographic has written an article on Yellowstone Supervolcano as a possible energy source. According to them, Yellowstone could power the entire continental U.S. with clean energy. This idea came from research into possible eruptions and catastrophic effects it could have if the Supervolcano were to erupt.

In 2017, NASA scientists thought of possible ways to delay an eruption by drilling wells around the park and pumping cold water to cool down the magma chamber. This solution would also have benefits as they could generate five gigawatts of electricity, making it one of the largest powerplants in the world. They also claim Yellowstone hosts enough geothermal energy to power the entire country.

Thankfully, Yellowstone is still protected under the 1970 Geothermal Steam Act, which prohibits the placement of geothermal plants in national parks. Many experts believe Yellowstone should remain untouched to preserve the natural state of the environment. We can see the precedents of a possible geothermal plant by looking at New Zealand. In 1958, New Zealand established geothermal plants in the Wairakei Basin, where 70 geysers were active. Today, all 70 of the geysers are destroyed. And once home to 220 geysers in the 1950s, New Zealand had only 55 geysers remaining by the 1990s.

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