Alternative energy a hard sell in Nebraska

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Keystone XL pipeline has been drawing the attention of activists over the past few years, and, as a purely public power state, our reliance on coal and aging nuclear power plans have raised environmental concerns, but selling Nebraskans on alternative energy may be an uphill battle, despite a strong ethanol industry.

That's because, energy-wise, the status quo isn't that bad in the Cornhusker state.

Nebraska is the fifth most attractive state when it comes to average monthly energy costs, according to WalletHub's analysis of six key metrics.

Energy costs the average Nebraskan $312 a month, including $95 for electricity, $45 for natural gas and $173 for monthly fuel costs.

Nebraska ranks seventh in the price of electricity, 31st in electricity consumption per consumer, eighth in the price of natural gas, 21st in the consumption of natural gas, 13th in the price of fuel and 25th in fuel consumption per driver.

Of course, the price of energy doesn't tell the whole story; for one thing, Nebraskans have to buy more than their share of gasoline to cover the distances often involved in traveling to work or important appointments.

And, average income lags behind many of the higher-cost energy states.

Plus, proposed emission standards promise to raise electricity costs, despite our officially non-profit public power status.

Our ranking doesn't mean we shouldn't pay attention to alternative energy, and take advantage of opportunities such as the bioenergy and wind that our state offer.

But until it is economically attractive to switch, most of us aren't looking for alternatives to our current energy sources.

Prefering pain to boredom

Speaking of electricity, have you ever thought of it as entertainment?

No, not by feeding it into a television, radio or computer -- just the electricity itself?

The majority of people in a study by the University of Virginia apparently did just that.

As part of a larger overall study, the subjects were given the choice of sitting in a room for 15 minutes, alone with their thoughts and doing nothing, or giving themselves a mild electrical shock.

Twelve of 18 men in the study and six of 24 females preferred electrical pain to boredom, giving themselves at least one electric shock rather than endure 15 minutes with nothing to do.

All of them did say they would pay to avoid being shocked again.

"What is striking," the investigators write, "is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid."

The researchers noted that men tend to seek "sensations" more than women, which may explain why 67 percent of men self-administered shocks compared to 25 percent of women.

Regardless of gender, however, the study shows just how important it is that we keep our minds engaged. All the more reason to keep a newspaper handy ...

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