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Where Your Electricity Comes From

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When you turn on the lights in your house or plug in your smartphone charger or even charge your electric car, do you know where your power is coming from? Electricity is something we don’t think about very often until we don’t have it or the cost of it goes way up.

In the United States, there are a number of different sources of energy. The biggest sources of energy are fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Together, they account for two-thirds of the electricity we use. Nuclear power, which is the third biggest source, accounts for 20%.

And at the smaller end of the scale hydropower, which comes from things like the Hoover Dam, is responsible for 7% of power generation. Wind power accounts for 4% and solar power for less than 1%.

We don’t just use electricity at home. Businesses and factories all use electricity to make goods and provide services. When they have cheap electricity, it results in lower costs on products we buy and that boost can help create more jobs.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, the mix of energy sources can look very different. If you live in the midwest, you likely get more than 65% of your electricity from coal. If you live in the northwest, the biggest source of electricity is hydropower. And if you live in the northeast, you get the bulk of your electricity from natural gas and nuclear.

So when you hear that people want to raise the cost of using fossils fuels to make electricity and force people to switch to even more expensive options like wind and solar, realize that it will have a very real effect on your pocketbook and the economy.

And if the switch to renewables is too fast, we could even get to the point where the costs could skyrocket. Or there isn’t enough power to go around.