Renewable Energy Firm Dumps Coal to Make Point

Average home consumes equivalent of 4 tons of coal annually to run electricity

Published: 13-Aug-2003

ORT - Representatives from a renewable energy company dumped a ton of coal into the middle of Brick Market Place Monday afternoon in an effort to draw attention to the alternatives to burning fossil fuels for electricity.

One ton of coal is equal to the amount it would take to power the average American household for three months.

"You can multiply it times four and that's the amount of coal used in a year. Then, multiply that times all the houses in your neighborhood," said Sam Hummel, an educator from Renewable Choice Energy, a Colorado-based agency that aims to increase the number of people using wind and solar power. "So you can see how much that is. That's a lot of coal."

Shoppers stopped in their tracks to watch as the workers toted wheelbarrows and shovels full of shiny, dark lumps into the square. Some asked questions and others just stared. One ton sounds like a lot of coal, but it's not as much as one might think. It is about the amount that would fit into the bed of a pickup truck.

Sebastian Moore, a sophomore at Rogers High School, stepped off his bicycle to look over the big, black heap. Moore said he rarely thinks about where the electricity is coming from when he switches on the lights at his house.

"It is interesting because I never really think of it as coal. I think of it as sparks coming into my house," he said. "You don't really think about it."

Peter Sanford, on vacation with his family from Norton, Mass., said Americans think too rarely about the sources of their electricity.

"We need alternatives," he said. "We have the technology to burn coal cleaner but it's at a big cost. Unfortunately, it is at a cost and it is passed down to the consumer."

This summer, Hummel and the others from his education team have gone door to door to approximately 8,000 homes in Rhode Island to talk about the redeeming qualities of wind power. Some of the people he visited mentioned their concerns about Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Mass., the largest fossil-fuel burning plant in New England.

"Rhode Islanders are so into the environment and aware of what we are doing with our energy program," he said. "People are concerned about our air quality."

Hummel is a student at Duke University, which has used wind power to provide electricity for a portion of the campus for the past year. Other colleges have followed suit. While it may be more expensive for consumers, wind power is cleaner, safer for the environment and more plentiful than fossil fuels, he said.

"It's the fastest growing source of energy in the U.S. right now," he said. "We're never going to run out of wind."



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