Chuck McConnell: All-energy solution

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The passage of House Bill 1365 by the Colorado Legislature likely will have a very negative impact on jobs and tax revenues in Routt and Moffat counties. This bill strongly suggests conversion of a significant amount of electric generation in Colorado away from coal to natural gas. Estimates are 400 gas-related jobs will be created in the state if gas production is increased. Statewide, however, 500 jobs are estimated to be lost in coal mining and related industries. We could lose more than 100 jobs here in Northwest Colorado. The shift to natural gas also will drive our electric bills higher.

Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to sign the new legislation. The governor, along with other Colorado political leaders at the federal level, fought hard for years to block natural gas drilling and production through unrealistic regulations on the industry. Gas drilling activity moved to other parts of the country more friendly to the industry. Inexplicably, the governor and a bipartisan group of legislators now are embracing natural gas, to the determent of coal, through HB 1365.

When are our political leaders going to stop trying to pick winners and losers in the U.S. economy? Not long ago, the governor trumpeted the New Energy Economy as the answer to Colorado’s future economic growth. Part of the plan was to encourage new companies to move here to produce “green” jobs building windmills, solar panels and the like. Even under robust economic circumstances, the New Energy Economy would require several years to evolve and benefit jobs and the economy. Last year, one of the new windmill companies here in Colorado was forced to lay off 500 employees.

Fossil fuels will be absolutely necessary to keep our economy moving for the next 12 to 15 years while wind, solar and nuclear power slowly become affordable. Natural gas is the cleanest of the carbon-based fuels and is plentiful here in Colorado. Coal is even cheaper than gas and is another fuel in plentiful supply in Colorado. America needs to produce both of these conventional fuels as we transition to renewable fuels.

Domestic coal and natural gas exist in sufficient reserves to quickly and meaningfully reduce our dependence on foreign sourced crude oil — much of which comes from a very unfriendly part of the world. In February, 59 percent of America’s oil was imported at a cost of nearly $25 billion. If we had an intelligent domestic energy policy that included aggressive expansion of our domestic energy resources — coal and natural gas — those numbers would fall dramatically and thousands of jobs would result. That effort can begin immediately.

All of this leads to some important questions. Why have our political leaders eschewed and even fought natural gas energy that produces jobs right now? Why do our leaders plan to spend money to convert from coal to natural gas and not simply scrub the coal plant stack gases? Why have our political leaders in the past encouraged only “new” energy and not “all” energy?

Colorado workers need jobs now, and we need plentiful, domestically sourced fuels to transition us into the renewable era. Our economy and our national security hang in the balance.

Chuck McConnell

Steamboat Springs

Comments

ybul 4 years ago

Until coal, oil and natural gas production and consumption process' have all of their costs internalized there development should be regulated as much as they are today.

The idea of injecting chemicals into natural gas wells to frac drill and absolving the producers of liability at the expense of the water users is not good policy. While the use of natural gas is great in helping to clean up the brown cloud on the front range. What will that do for western water tables.

When the companies doing the frac drilling claim that they can not divulge the chemicals they are putting in the ground for proprietary reasons, is not responsible behavior on their part or our governments.

One question for Chuck, is why do we need to encourage coal production, Natural Gas production, etc.. Why not encourage reduced consumption, why not work towards providing true costs in the consumption of coal use in the acid raid, the mercury contamination of our waterways, etc.. If we actually espoused free market principles the true cost of production of electricity, oil and natural gas would be higher. We would not need to subsidize wind or nuclear power as they would be less expensive.

Why not encourage the construction of a smart gird where our power is billed on a moment to moment basis so that we can determine if we want to be power consumers or producers at any given time.

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sledneck 4 years ago

And why take water form our aquifers to produce ethanol at the expense of our food supply when gasoline is more efficient? And why subsidize farmers to NOT grow crops? And why not open the ANWR to oil production? And if "freemarket" principles are good for raising electric and gas prices to reflect their "true" cost why not apply the same technique to our tax system and have everyone pay ALL their true costs to society thru a consumption tax? And if natural gas will deplete water quantity and coal will deplete water quality why don't we all just move to the moon? Starting with everyone else except me!

Everyone is a preacher and there is noboby left in the congregation. It's all everyone elses fault. Jesus! Our water is cleaner than it has been in decades. Our air is cleaner too. And the technology to keep us ahead of the curve would continue to arrive if the "freemarket" were not stifled at every turn by busybodies who know so damn much yet create so little... other than fear.

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Chuck McConnell 4 years ago

ybul,

My answer re. reducing consumption is that I agree with you. We can and should reduce consumption by increasing the fuel milage standards for cars, mandating minimum insulation standards and high efficency hot water heaters for NEW homes and buildings (not existing homes), and a plethora of other sensible actions.

Regarding why coal? It's the numbers. Our economy will grow albiet at a slow rate and demand for energy will grow with it. Coal and natural gas are domestic fuels that create domestic, high-paying jobs. We absolutely cannot depend on imported crude to meet that demand. History shows the severe pain on our citizens and economy when those imported supplies are interrupted. Coal effluent stack gas can be cleaned, admitally at a cost, but that is a better solution than depending on Qatar, SA, Iraq, et.al. for our energy needs.

If you believe in the man-made global warming theory, you should love natural gas vs. imported crude oil. CO2 from natural gas is much less than CO2 from crude oil. I was in the natural gas business and the deminimus damage from gas drilling pale to the negatives of importation from countries that some people even believe finance terrorism.

Renewable energy solutions will evolve but it will take time -- 12 to 15 years. We must fill the lacuna with domestic energy.

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trump_suit 4 years ago

Well spoken Chuckmc. I also fail to understand how we can ignore our natural gas resources. Those resources burn cleaner and provide high paying american jobs to american companies and citizens.

Utah has expanded their natural gas filling stations along the entire Wasatch front and is actively encouraging it's citizens to migrate their transportation needs to those fuels. While natural gas does not fix the problem with CO2 emissions, it does help to lower them and will give us breathing room to find alternative sources of energy for our transportation needs.

The reasons to stop importing oil should be obvious to all. It is time to begin the process and to get america on a path of energy independance. Those of us in the mountain regions that need heating and gasoline to simply survive may find that shutting down the ski lifts and moving to warmer climates is required. If you think $4.00 a gallon is expensive, try $5, 10, 15 or 20. Those numbers are coming in your lifetime if we continue along our current path.

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Chuck McConnell 4 years ago

trump_suit,

Very well said.

ybul,

Please know that I believe in wind power and that it will be a meaningful component of our energy complex within the next 15 years or so. But, when you talk about the "free market true cost" of coal and gas utilization, do not forget that the DOE recently reported that if we get to 20% wind power, it will take at least $90 billion to upgrade and expand our electric distribution system to move wind generated electricity from places where the wind blows reliability to the markets where the power is used.

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ybul 4 years ago

Chuck,

 Yep there will be costs associated with upgrading the grid, probably should upgrade it to one that bills from moment to moment to encourage home production, storage and consumption.

 However, in stating that we should encourage coal or natural gas I would say any time you are injecting an unknown substance into the ground which makes it into the water table, is not a palatable solution.  My point is that by not actually having the gubiment associate some cost to coal/natural gas production, consumption then you are already subsidizing it at someones expense.  That cost should be contained within the cost of use so they are not getting a free ride, thus the free market has a flaw,  as all costs of production need internalized.

 Maybe you did not state you want to subsidize its production exactly though I implied that.  If you really want to subsidize something, subsidize wind turbines in NW colorado, use that wind to split our abundance of water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Then take solar concentrators, they have made in AZ, and use those to heat the hydrogen and combine it with carbon, using the fisher tropsche process to make oil.  This would provide a renewable resource that is capable of being used in our current infrastructure.

  Don't think it is possible as oil is an ancient substance, then ponder how we are making diamonds today in hours, days but a relatively short time frame.

   In addition considering how this administration just pissed away 250 billion on a stimulus package that in the long term creates ZERO new wealth (as roads just facilitate the movement of existing wealth and really have helped to concentrate wealth), spending 90 billion to upgrade the grid seems like a bargain that would keep paying for years to come.

   But then again the feds will solve our problems right.  Yep the DOE was conceived to get us off foreign oil and look how well that federal program has worked.  We need to work on fixing our problems here as a community as the feds will not do it for us and seem to always have strings attached with the money they dole out.
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