THEN - The Smoke Nuisance crisis that plagued the Salt Lake City and surrounding Wasatch Front area lasted for more than 60 years. From the late 1800s through the 1940s, the severity air pollution due to coal burning, conflated with inversions in the winter months, impacted everyone. With long-standing frustration and vocal activism, opportunity knocked for appliance inventions to reduce smoke and marketing plans targeting the public’s desperation to breathe cleaner air. Advertisements for “Smoke burning” furnaces and coal alternatives, such as oil and kerosene, and even coal companies who purported to support a smokeless Utah were common in newspapers.
Improving household appliances and energy sources with less environmental impact was the responsibility of the public. These upgrades that would benefit the greater good were up left up to individuals and came with a premium price tag.
While there have been significant technological improvements to how we power our lives, fossil fuels like coal and natural gas remain the primary way that we heat our homes. The reality remains that air quality along the Wasatch Front is some of the worst in the country. Utahns residing in this bowl-like topographic area breath air plagued by winter inversions, household and vehicle emissions, and industrial pollution. Climate change and drought has exacerbated air quality due to smoke from wildfires and dust from the dried lakebeds of the Great Salt Lake. But there is hope and momentum to move away from carbon pollution to a cleaner, healthier, and happier Utah!
Moving away from fossil fuels towards ‘renewable’ energy sources to power our lives is a big part of our air quality and climate solutions. Renewable energy is energy that naturally replenishes itself, such as solar and wind energy. One of the biggest ways individual consumers and households can utilize renewable energy is to install solar panels and electrify their appliances and vehicles.
The conversion to renewable energy-fueled households and automobiles is a monumental effort that will take time. Early on in the renewable energy industry, consumers, as in the early twentieth century, were faced with paying premiums for more environmentally responsible products. Today, however, building new renewable energy is almost always cheaper than building traditional energy resources to power our lives. This means that more families and businesses will be able to power their lives with non-polluting energies than ever before. Adding to this momentum, there are new government incentives available to people install solar, make their homes or buildings more energy efficient and/or make the switch to clean electric vehicles. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 offers tax credits for homeowners who upgrade their appliances to be electric and energy efficient. Nonprofit organizations like Rewiring America encourage electrifying homes, businesses, and communities while providing data and tools to assist in this transformation. Their IRA Savings Calculator is an example of tools to estimate tax credits and rebates available to US consumers for upgrading to energy efficient appliances. The extensive guide "Electrify Everything in Your Home: A Guide to Comfy, Health, Carbon-Free Living" by Joel Rosenberg of Rewiring America is free, detailed ebooklet on how renters and homeowners can begin transitioning to renewable and electric-powered living.
On a state level, Utah Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving air quality and addressing climate change by decarbonizing Utah's energy supply. Utah Clean Energy tackles energy policy to bring more renewable energy to Utah, works with utilities to expand energy efficiency, and help Utahns make the switch to electric vehicles. Their Utah Energy Hub is an educational resource for Utahns to learn more about energy efficiency for both renters and home owners, solar power for homes and business, electric vehicle incentives, and the many financial incentives available. The below video "Upping the Ante with Electrification!" explains how Utah Clean Energy is leading the clean energy transformation by switching from coal to renewable energy sources and electrifying home appliances and vehicles.