Uncounted costs of energy waste disposal

By
  • Les Everett — agronomist, University of Minnesota, Water Resources Center
November 06, 2012

 

Rolf Westgard’s Nov. 1 letter to the editor “Wind, solar power can’t be used as energy replacements” comparing subsidies for renewable vs. fossil fuels ignores the impossibly high costs of removing mercury from our lakes, deposited by emissions from coal fired electrical plants. Most lakes in Minnesota have fish consumption advisories because of those emissions. We are also facing global climate change from fossil-fuel emissions, also with incalculable costs not included in his comparisons. Electrical generation in Iowa, previously almost fully dependent on coal, now obtains nearly 20 percent from wind energy. There is no reason to believe that a combination of nuclear renewables and some gas cannot largely replace coal in Minnesota.

An analogous situation existed with sewage. Until 1938, the Twin Cities dumped its raw sewage directly into the Mississippi River, since that was the “cheapest” disposal method. We then recognized the previously uncounted costs in human health and aquatic life and made the necessary investment in treatment plants to protect our health and the environment.

 

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