In Utah, 98% of our energy comes from fossil fuels and 36% of that from coal. But where does this odd rock come from?
Imagine the Earth in the time of the dinosaurs, hundreds of millions of years ago. It was warmer, and weird plants and animals ruled. When these creatures died, they were covered up with dirt and subjected to insane amounts of pressure.
Over millions of years, under pressure, the carbon in these creatures was eventually made into the fossil fuels we use today. Natural gas and oil were formed in ancient seas, whereas coal was formed on land. This is why we mine coal in mountains. One of these giant deposits happens to be in the middle of Utah.
Coal doesn’t actually come from dinosaurs, mostly because there simply weren’t enough to make up all the coal we find today.
Humans have been mining coal as long as we have written history of humans. Archeological evidence shows coal mining going back as far as 3490 BCE in China.
Fast forward to modern history, where it jump-started the industrial revolution. Utah became important in the coal industry because of our role in the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
Coal was overtaken as the largest producer of energy by natural gas in most of the world in the 1960s. In Utah, however, it still accounts for 76% of our electricity generation.
We use because it’s cheap, and we have so much of it. The mining infrastructure is already here, and we already know how to use it. Families have been mining coal in Utah for over a hundred years. It’s part of our way of life.
Unfortunately, the coal industry is dying. We can no longer deny the effects it has on the environment or the miners’ health. In 2009, coal released 80% of greenhouse gases in the US. Utah’s air has become unbreathable on certain days the winter. It’s slowly getting better because we’re using more renewables, but there are still days where the elderly and people with asthma should not go outside.
Renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and coal can’t keep up. Utah is one of the 7 best states for solar energy because we don’t have many overcast days. Tax credits are increasing, making solar energy cheaper than coal for many people. Utah came in second in 2016 nationwide in both expanding solar energy capacity and solar energy production per capita.
Salt Lake County is planning on going 100% renewable by 2032, and Park City plans on going 100% renewable by 2022.