A year ago, life in the USA was returning to normal. Nearly post-pandemic, the economy was reopening, bringing healthy, bullish growth in the private sector; gas prices were low, and it was looking better for small businesses.
However, for the world’s global logistics industry, the headaches were just beginning, and the world’s supply chain more than creaked under the pressure of a world coming back to terms with working again.
As a result, the price of global shipping rocketed and caused no end of trouble for the companies reliant on the movement of goods, not to mention the price hike faced by consumers for both imported and homemade products and food.
Furthermore, the Russo-Ukraine war means cheap Russian gas and oil are things of the past, and consumers worldwide have faced steep increases at home, in the supermarket, and at the gas pump. The general public must fight to keep their energy bills down, with those at the lower echelons of wealth facing the dilemma of ‘eating or heating’ this winter.
Prices and Profits Rising
According to Bloomberg, the price of heating your home has gone up roughly 24% since August 2021. Meanwhile, big oil and gas companies posted record-breaking profits in 2022 — even bagging a combined $62 billion profit in one quarter alone.
In December, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the National Ignition Facility (NIF) had achieved a controlled fusion reaction after years of trial and error. This process involves firing lasers at tiny capsules filled with hydrogen isotopes, with the target being a sustained reaction of endless clean energy.
The breakthrough came after similar success in the United Kingdom’s pursuit a few months earlier — albeit through a slightly different method. Subsequently, there is now worldwide collaboration and multi-nation investment in the world’s largest international thermonuclear experimental reactor (or ITER), which will be based in France.
In other good news, the market for hydrogen as a viable renewable is growing, and the DOE announced up to $7 billion in funding for companies looking to develop hydrogen infrastructure and manufacturing. Governments worldwide will follow this pattern, announcing record investments in green hydrogen projects and awarding grants for the new transition.
Electricity generation in the United States is divided into various methods. Currently, the majority of electricity nationwide comes from natural gas (42%), followed by nuclear (18%), coal (17%), wind (11%), solar (6%), and hydropower (5%).
There is no denying that we are moving firmly into a greener, cleaner society. For those who value renewable energy or even those looking to move to a new state, here is a list of American locations with the cleanest, low-emission electricity generation.
Top of the list is the Green Mountain State, which gets almost 100% of its electricity through renewables — but for trace exceptions in natural gas and petroleum. Vermont, the country’s thirteenth fastest-growing economy over the past five years, has produced half its energy through hydroelectric power in 2022.
However, this clean record has the caveat that a quarter of its electricity comes from biomass, defined as renewable, though it is still combustion. Nonetheless, Vermonters have much to brag about with such a clean bill of energy health.
The Evergreen State is living up to its name with legislation passed in 2019 that requires all the state’s electric utilities providers to transition to clean energy sources by 2045. Washington’s top three contributing industries are information, real estate, and retail trade, and the state ranks as the eighth fastest-growing state since 2017.
Unsurprisingly, the state with some of the wettest counties in the nation generates a huge 65% of its electricity through hydropower, with 9% coming from wind power and a significant amount of low-emission natural gas. This matches Washington’s reputation as an ecological part of the western world, with Seattle making the top-ten greenest cities in the country.
The Mount Rushmore state ranks twenty-first in its economic growth rate, though its clean energy growth is impressive. South Dakota may only have a sub-million population, but it generates over half its electric power through wind turbines. No doubt, being mostly covered by sweeping grasslands is conducive to high winds.
South Dakota used to get the majority of its electricity from hydropower; this has dropped from 40% to 30% of the state’s total electric energy only due to the increase in wind generation.
Governor Kristy Noem recently wrote in the Washington Times about the state’s ‘all-the-above’ approach to energy: “We don’t pick winners and losers. We recognize our diverse energy resources and make full use of them.”
Idaho sits quietly in the middle of the northern Rocky Mountain states, and from 2020 through 2021 became the most moved-to state in the land.
Formerly known as Colorado Territory and charmingly nicknamed the Gem State, Idaho ranks third for economic growth over five years. Idaho’s population of almost two million people has an impressive clean energy grid, obtaining 70% of its electricity through renewables.
With its diverse high-altitude landscape, hydro supports 54% of its needs, with wind power generating 21% — even the main fossil fuel is natural gas at 28%, so it is safe to say Idaho is doing well.
The northeasternmost state of the Lower 48, Maine currently gets 40% of its electric power through hydro and wind, with a quarter coming from biomass and the same for natural gas.
The state is ideal for tidal power generation because of its unique rocky coastlines and coves, with inlets and harbors dotting its expansive tidal shorelines. Its history suggests this has been a vision for Mainers over the past century.
Even President Franklin Roosevelt designated federal assistance for an “All American” project to bring tidal power to the state — this was sadly doomed to fail.
The same fate occurred when JFK tried the same thing thirty years later. The project always became economically or logistically difficult to complete, losing its appeal to investors.
However, this looks set to change in the coming years with the installation of Cobscook Bay’s first Tidal Generation Power System in 2012, updated in 2022, and a flagship project for tidal power.
There is no surprise the state with the greenest capital city in the country makes the top six — lower than one would guess. Oregonians are renowned for their ecological ethos, and the state flies with its own wings in renewable energy.
The nation’s 33rd state is famous for its vast prairies, awe-inspiring coastline, and incredible temperate rainforests. With such an abundance of rain-covered mountains, there is no shock that hydropower is almost half their electricity source.
Oregon has an incredibly diverse topography and climate, with open swathes of land in the east producing 16% of its power through wind turbines and a healthy quarter of its electricity from natural gas.
Furthermore, the Beaver state is also famous for its craft beer, and several brewers now use 100% renewable energy for their operation, including wind power.
Iowa sits in the heart of the Midwest and has one of the country's lowest topographies, featuring vast grassland ranges and one of the most farmed territories in the country.
The Hawkeye State also sits aside other lowland neighbors such as Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois. Therefore, it would always make a perfect location for wind turbines and now generates 56% of its energy from this free resource, and in 2021 it had the highest in the country.
Iowa still relies on coal for a third of its electricity. It is also the nation’s leading biodiesel and fuel ethanol producer, responsible for a fifth of all biodiesel and a quarter of America’s fuel ethanol.
Another mountain state with abundant waterways, the Treasure State receives 40% of its power from hydropower. With thousands of lakes, rivers, and creeks in the eighth-largest state, this number should surely be higher.
Montana is a great place for aquatic electricity because of its vast watershed, originating at the Triple Divide Peak region in the northwestern corner. Rain that lands here will end up in one of three oceans: the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, or even the Hudson Bay — considered part of the Arctic Ocean.
Big Sky Country — a far superior nickname, one might say — is also getting more than 10% of its electricity through wind, which is low for such a huge, mountainous place. Perhaps this is due to the large coal mining industry, which still accounts for a third of all its electricity.
The states in this list have much in common with their competitors: most are mountainous states, Great Plains states, or states with a blend of both topographies. Kansas consists of hilly plains in the west and low, fertile grasslands in the east, which means wind power is king. Kansas is in tornado alley, where cold, dry air from the north meets with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Sunflower State’s sweeping, uninterrupted grassland makes it perfect for farming, with long, humid summer days and cold, windy winters. With such a wide, open space, it is no surprise that 45% of its power comes from the wind.
With nuclear power bringing 15% of Kansas’s electric power, the state’s clean energy is at a healthy 60%, though it still generates 33% of its power from coal, importing it from other states. As renewables become more market-friendly, this number will drop.
Another of the Great Plains states in this list, Oklahoma is famous for its vast prairies, canyons, and modest mountain ranges, which form part of the U.S. Interior Highlands.
Naturally, most people associate the Sooner State with dangerous weather systems, resulting in devastating tornadoes, hurricanes, and severe droughts in the summer.
Wind power is taking the top spot in this state, though it only accounts for 41% of the power created — perhaps a low number for such a geographically high-wind zone.
However, with natural gas being the second-highest power generator and only a fraction generated through coal, emissions are okay in OK.
California Governor Gavin Newsom made the headlines in the autumn with a combative new set of measures to transition the state to green energy, costing the state $54 billion in funding.
According to his official state webpage, “Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping package of legislation to cut pollution, protect Californians from big polluters, and accelerate the state’s transition to clean energy.”
For the most populous member in the contiguous United States, California sure talks a good game in the green energy race. Currently, the Golden State generates 50% of its energy from clean sources — this contains an impressive 30% in solar, making it the number one solar producer in the land.
Furthermore, with plans to replace all gasoline-powered vehicles with EVs by 2035, the surge in electricity use will be a defining factor in Newsom’s vision. There may be a need to revert to more fossil fuel electricity to power this dream.
With their cousins to the south stealing a march on them with an impressive record, the land of Coen Brothers’ folklore sits in the top twenty for clean energy, with roughly 40% of its energy coming from mainly wind power and some hydropower.
The Peaceful Garden State is similar to its southern twin in that it has abundant wind, though its topography also contains a substantial mineral wealth deposit. Coal still accounts for a huge 55% of the state’s electricity, which is no surprise, considering its easy access and low cost.
The borderland’s biggest industry is agriculture, mining, and food wholesaling, with some of the richest soil in the country. Oklahoma also has one of the country’s largest oil reserves, employing tens of thousands of workers.
A Midwest state with a great open expanse of water on one side and a huge expanse of flattish land to the south, one would be forgiven for thinking Illinois has a 100% wind power capability.
They would be wrong: curiously, Illinois only produces 14% of its power from the wind. One might think a state containing the Windy City would produce more.
Then again, for the state capital Springfield with its namesake part of The Simpsons canon, nuclear power is a good fit. The Prairie State relies on splitting the atom for 56% of its electricity, meaning 70% of Illinois’ power is zero emission.
The state’s wonderful motto, “Live free or die,” should maybe read: “Live emission-free or die,” considering its low-emission energy use. New Hampshire ranks 5th in economic growth in the country over five years, achieving this with a 67% emission-free record.
The Granite State is the country’s leader in nuclear power, which makes up the majority, followed by a trace percentage of hydro or wind power. This low use of wind power seems odd when Mount Washington in the north of the state averages hurricane-strength winds for a third of the year. Nonetheless, New Hampshire is still one of many states in the region not using any coal.
Tennessee has a high population for one of the smallest states: over seven million people, which means it requires more power than somewhere like New Mexico, which is almost three times bigger and less populated.
As of 2022, Tennessee has a diverse range of emission-free electricity, which may surprise some. For a dyed-in-the-wool red state, Tennessee generates 53% of its power through nuclear, though with a substantial hydropower generation of 11%. Of its fossil fuel use, only 18% is coal-fired power, with the rest coming from natural gas.
Of Minnesota’s almost six million residents, almost two-thirds live in the Twin Cities region, leaving a sparsely populated stretch of land. As of 2022, the North Star State generates 54% of its electricity without emissions.
However, one could be forgiven for expecting more hydropower in a state known for its freshwater resources. The state now brings less than 1% of its electricity via its greatest treasure.
Such a low statistic is strange, considering Minnesota is also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes — 14,380 if you count them all. However, an admirable 27% from wind power combined with solar and nuclear power gives Minnesota a solid clean energy performance.
South Carolina’s flag shows a crescent and the indigenous palmetto tree behind the state’s nickname, though being on the windy and hurricane-aware Eastern Seaboard, maybe the palmetto tree should be tilted sideways.
The state has severe Atlantic windstorms in the winter, and even tornadoes are known in the summer, yet it generates no electricity through wind power.
Solar power yields 3% of South Carolina’s power, with 1% only coming from hydropower. However, 55% of the state’s electricity is nuclear, which gives South Carolinians a mostly emission-free energy grid.
Maintaining the largest city in the USA is a daily miracle. The New York City blackouts of 2003 proved what a Herculean task keeping the lights on in the Big Apple is. For a city with a population greater than 40 other states’ totals, doing this 44% emission-free is nothing short of amazing.
New York State generates almost a quarter of its electricity through hydropower, which makes sense considering its access to temperate mountains and freshwater. With 4% of its energy coming from solar and the same from wind, this leaves another 22% from nuclear power. New York still gets the biggest share of electricity through natural gas, though like most states in the neighboring New England region, it has closed down all coal-fired power plants.
Many other remaining states have seen development in renewable energy, and most are using clean energy in some form. Of all the states, there are several with exceptional power needs.
Texas uses the most electricity in the nation, twice as much as its nearest competitor, Florida. Next in line is Pennsylvania — California is close behind.
A large group of states gets most electricity via natural gas, with Delaware (94%), Rhode Island (85%), and Florida (74%) leading the way.
This is good news for emissions, considering natural gas is thought to burn half as much carbon dioxide as coal, though many factors, such as the modernization of power plants, are key.
There are still several states using coal for the bulk of their needs; these are topped by West Virginia (84%), then Wyoming (76%), and Kentucky (66%).
It is important to remember that while the future is renewable, the present is crucial for growth and economic survival, so utilizing a nation’s mineral wealth is sometimes necessary.
As America faces its most challenging economic battle, it will be forced to continue this balancing act with nature, with optimists everywhere hopeful that we will one day restore a balance that benefits everybody.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.