Energy in the Wind

We have long relied on fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas for electricity and other forms of energy. However, burning fossil fuels has serious drawbacks. It can harm our air, land, and health. As a result, people have been looking for alternate energy forms. One promising form is wind power. Using turbines, or machines that turn one kind of energy into another, we can turn the power of the wind into electricity. Right now, wind power provides only a small amount of our electricity. But wind power could provide much more electricity in the future, and we should make sure that it does.

One reason for using wind power is that it is clean. Currently, about 44 percent of our electricity comes from coal, and we burn many millions of tons of coal to produce it. In fact, coal is the biggest single air polluter in the United States. As of 2012, there were 572 coal plants operating in the U.S. Each year, a typical plant releases 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, a factor in global warming. Burning coal also causes smog, soot, acid rain, and toxic air emissions.

The chemicals released by coal also harm our health. The study “Coal’s Assault on Human Health,” by Physicians for Social Responsibility, concludes that the burning of coal contributes to four of the top five causes of death in the U.S. Coal pollution can also cause brain damage and other problems in unborn children.

Think of all the hopes new parents have for their children. Imagine how the parents feel when their children are born with brain damage. That tragedy alone should be enough to convince us to reduce our use of coal.

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that wind power could generate 20 percent of our electricity by 2030. That would stop the release of thousands of pounds of pollutants. Of course, we’ll need to build, install, and maintain many new turbines. That’s a lot of work, but the work will create many jobs-more than a thousand per wind farm. New jobs are another benefit of wind power.

Still, wind power has opponents. Some people think that wind farms mar the beauty of the land. Their concerns are understandable. Energy companies do not install just one turbine here and there. To produce enough electricity to make installation worthwhile, companies install many turbines in the same place. Wind turbines look like airplane propellers resting on tall towers. To some people, that is an ugly sight. Wind turbines also make noise. From several hundred yards away, you can hear whooshing blades and humming turbines. If you expect to hear the quiet sounds of nature, turbines may annoy you.

But no form of energy is perfect. Therefore, we must weigh our options and make a choice. Are we willing to drastically reduce our energy use? Probably not. Should we then continue to burn huge amounts of fossil fuels? We dare not. Compared to the problems caused by fossil fuels, wind energy seems good-very good. In short, the answer to at least some of our energy problems is blowing in the wind. And that answer is wind power.

Write short answers to the questions

  1. What is the central claim of the argument? State it in your own words.

  2. What two main reasons does the writer give to support the claim? State them in your own words.

  3. Which types of evidence does the writer give?
    • expert opinion
    • statistics
    • specific examples
    • studies
  4. What counterarguments against wind power does the writer give? State them in your own words.