Monday, May 11, 2009

Where Does Our Power Come From?

Kids are filled with endless questions... Does the tooth fairy leave money if you swallow the tooth? How do the peas get inside the peapod? How old do I have to be to go to Antarctica by myself? I've managed through these questions for nine years, but how about this one: Where does our power come from? Um... the power company? But, how does it get there?

Our local newspaper, The Everett Herald, had an interesting story on Washington state power sources yesterday that answered many of those questions. As I had suspected, the vast majority (81%) of our power comes from hydroelectric sources. Want to know where your power comes from? The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has a chart that shows the primary source and relative expense state by state. EIA also has a cool map that shows where all the power comes from.

State by state, the primary power source varies greatly from nuclear (Vermont) to petroleum (Hawaii) to gas (Alaska) to coal (Kentucky). No one produces more hydroelectric power than Washington, but that leads to more questions. Is hydroelectric power green? Some say yes - it is a renewable source and it doesn't generate many greenhouse gases - and some say no - the dams that it requires are wrecking the natural flow of water which can have devastating effects on the ecosystem.

The next time you flip the lightswitch, think about where the energy is coming from. Is it a coalmine, a windfarm, an oil refinery, or a dam? As states begin to talk about moving to more renewable sources of energy, its important to know the source of today's energy.

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