SALT LAKE CITY — Utah may boast abundant energy resources such as coal, natural gas and crude oil, but the message Gov. Gary Herbert drilled home at his energy summit is to save energy at every turn.
Herbert chose his 2014 Energy Development Summit on Wednesday at the Salt Palace Convention Center to unveil a 26-point "energy-efficiency and conservation" plan that aims to boost energy savings in the major sectors of Utah's economy.
Those sectors are first and primarily industry and agriculture, with "savings" reached through innovative financing plans such as the establishment of a revolving loan fund, the creation of an energy-efficiency tax credit and producer incentives for farmers and ranchers.
Herbert's plan also calls for boosting energy efficiency in key areas of critical concern for many in Utah — water supplies and air quality.
"A big component of this plan is transportation — better transportation, better fuels and more efficient automobiles. We want our building codes to be more efficient," he said, stressing that a major emphasis of the plan is education and outreach.
"It is hard to be more efficient if you do not know how," the governor said. "This is about what we can do as a community to be better. We are trying to lead by example, and we expect that the public will do its part too."
For air quality, Herbert wants industry to pay more attention upfront in the production of energy and become more efficient, which could lead to reductions in emissions at the back end.
In the water arena, the plan calls for more funding on research that looks at water supply, consumption and how watersheds may react to climate change.
The governor also wants more research in the area of using "nontraditional" supplies of water, such as reclaimed water or brackish water, sources largely unexplored in Utah — the nation's second-driest state.
Herbert chose the energy summit to announce that Utah is one of three states across the nation participating in pilot demonstration projects to convert natural gas into ethanol.
Such a venture, if successful, would further allow the state to tap into a cheap resource in which it is No. 10th in the nation already for production. The fuel would be better for Utah's air because it is lower in nitrogen oxides, a precursor to PM2.5, or fine particulate pollution.
Joe Cannon, president and chief executive officer of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit partner in the Utah project, said the beauty of ethanol-fuel derived from natural gas is that it would require a relatively cheap conversion of existing vehicles — making it affordable for everyone.
Since ethanol is already part of fuel blends, he also predicted the transition could easily be made for the marketplace.
"It is regulatorily feasible and economically attractive," Cannon said.
Project backers are already working with the Environmental Protection Agency to get approval on conversions that would be appropriate for any vehicle on the road.
Cannon said the goal is to reduce the cost of transportation fuels in the United States by $300 billion a year within 10 years, saving consumers $2 per gallon at the pump.
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