The US put in 13 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2012, 5 of it in December alone, according to a Bloomberg study. The Office of Energy Projects report was a bit more conservative, but confirmed the general trend.
Wind alone now accounts for 6% of US electricity generation!
Even the government figures showed that about half of all new energy generation in the US came from renewables in 2012, mostly wind turbines.
The US also put in about 1.5 gigawatts of new solar power last year.
In some markets, such as Texas, installing wind turbines for electricity generation is now actually cheaper than building natural gas plants! Reflecting this trend toward wind grid parity, more new wind capacity was added to the US electrical grid than natural gas, which was itself no mean shakes. Gas puts out less carbon dioxide than coal, but fracturing it from underground rock formations may release so much methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) that it is a wash with coal. Both coal and gas plants need to be mothballed as quickly as possible.
The bad news is that the US still generated 5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the highest per capita in the OECD nations! We are poisoning the world and provoking catastrophic climate change, and all the good news about wind and solar doesn’t offset our massive contribution to looming environmental disaster.
Specially bad news is that 1.4 gigawatts of new, dirty coal power was brought online in 2012 in the US. That should be illegal! Coal is poisoning us and our world! Carbon dioxide in the quantities we are producing it is a toxin for the world. Not to mention that we are being mercury-poisoned by dirty coal emissions!
If you care about your children, call your state representative (look him or her up) and demand that building new coal plants be made illegal. Now! We don’t need it. Put in wind and solar instead. In many markets it wouldn’t even be more expensive, and if you count in the cost of nerve poisoning by mercury and loss of seaside real estate, wind is dirt cheap compared to coal!
Likewise, call your city council representative and demand that your city generate its own electricity with wind and solar, taking it off the coal grid (this is especially important in the Midwest, where typically 65 percent of electricity generation comes from coal). And if you can afford it, put solar panels on your roof. You can cut your electricity bill 20-40% even in the Midwest. And invest in crowdsourcing solar projects (Warren Buffett is investing in solar, why shouldn’t we?)
We can do this from the bottom up. We can’t wait for the backward Neanderthal tea partiers in our Congress, who practically eat lumps of coal for lunch and wash it down with a petroleum martini. There isn’t much time to bring the carbon down, America. 2020 is a deadline, and it is only 7 years off. Goals of being 20% green by 2020 won’t do it. We need a major national movement and transformation, on the scale of the Civil Rights movement. Because clean energy and a non-warming world are a basic civil and human right that we deserve and will only get it if we demand it.