Check out the November winning entry in the grade 9-12 level.
Examining the Environmental Impact of a Coal-Crazed City
How can a city that has government-provided recycling services, newly installed bicycle lanes, and world-renowned horse farms be named the top enemy to environmentalists? This is the story behind my hometown, a city with the largest carbon footprint in the US (according to a report issued by the Brookings Institution). Ron Scherer of the Christian Science Monitor states, "mix an icy Kentucky winter with coal-fired power plants and residents who often hit the highways, and you end up with the metro area of Lexington-Fayette, Ky." This brings me to an incredibly sensitive topic, the paradox of the coal industry.
Ever since the 1920s when Kentucky's first mine was created in Muhlenberg County, there has been disputes about coal's environmental impact. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Burning coal causes smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, and toxic air emissions wastes generated [include] Ash, sludge, toxic chemicals " These arguments are overshadowed by the economic benefits of cheap natural resources. Cheryl Taylor, Lexington's first commissioner of environmental quality notes "Our proximity to the eastern coalfields has provided us with some of the nation's lowest electrical costs." The coal industry also provides incomes substantially above minimum wage to impoverished families in the Appalachia (employment for more than 24,000 miners in 1994 according to the University of Kentucky).
At the Governor's Scholars Program, I made friends from Eastern Kentucky that had peers working in coal mines, earning money to make ends meet. But at the same time, I am concerned about the state of the planet and realize that coal is one of the dirtiest sources of energy. Although I wish I could receive hydroelectric or solar power instead of coal, I am not able to do so. The least I can do is be more environmentally-friendly. I walk and carpool more frequently, turn off the lights when I leave the room, and limit my water usage. Although you may not have personal control of where your electricity comes from, you can still be a conscientious consumer, an informed reader, and a green individual.