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Comments about ‘My view: Coal plays important role in powering Utah’

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Published: Thursday, July 3 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Baron Scarpia
Logan, UT

The days of Utah coal are ending due to four factors: (1) low-cost natural gas due to fracking; (2) falling renewable energy costs; (3) state and national policies; and (4) drought.

We're seeing many coal-fired power plants convert to gas, with IPP3 likely to make the switch.

Levelized wind power costs fell 43 percent in the last four years. Solar costs continue to fall as well, with rooftop solar becoming almost standard in new construction (e.g., in California) and for businesses (e.g., IKEA, Google, eBay, etc.).

While everyone is blaming Obama's "War on Coal," Utah's biggest threat is California's cutting off of its coal contracts by 2027. Without a market for Utah's coal in California -- added with Western ports refusing to ship coal out of Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco to China -- Utah's coal is destined to be locked up.

Finally, coal's need for water to make steam to turn power turbines is a looming medium-term threat. With Utah's population destined to double in the next few decades, intensified "water wars" will force utilities to switch to non-water based resources, such as wind and solar (and storage).

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

"It’s not just empty rhetoric. Utah has embraced an all-of-the-above energy policy. We will continue to research, innovate, conserve, focus on efficiency and develop our energy resources responsibly, including Utah’s clean coal"

Actually a very accurate statement. For as conservative as a state Utah is, in the areas of public transport and energy, Utah has behaved down right progressive - proving these items are not mutually exclusive.

Esquire
Springville, UT

I've had debates with Cody on related issues, and I see no room for compromise. Cody lived in Washington for several years, but I don't know if he ever went to West Virginia or Western Pennsylvania and saw the strip mining that has forever ruined the landscape and the environment. I don't know if he is aware of coal sludge and the permanent destruction it causes. I suspect he doesn't believe in climate change, but surely he can literally see the air along the Wasatch Front. If the Governor and his advisers were interested in the future of Utah, rather than serving the short-term, immediate financial interests of mining and oil companies, they would show some leadership on pursuing alternate energy sources. Where is the innovation? Where is the research funding? Where is the thinking about the long term economic interests of Utah's citizens? It's non-existent. Cody is a great guy, but on this and related issues, he is dead wrong.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

IMO there's no such thing as literally "Clean Burning" coal. The coal found in this part of the country burns cleaner than the coal found in other parts of the country, but it's still not "clean" (when it burns). But we have invested a lot in the technology to scrub the power plant emissions till they are cleaner than what comes out of the tailpipe of your car.

We have invested in technology so that today coal power is very efficient and very clean (compared to the old days).

I would be the happiest person here if we had technology that would replace our need for fossil fuels. But let's face it... it's not capable of replacing these energy sources yet. And it's not affordable in the scale we need to replace the energy we get currently get from fossil fuels.

That doesn't mean we don't keep moving that direction. It just means don't cut off your nose to satisfy your rhetoric. We still need both... for the foreseeable future.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

Please, your "all of the above" claim is a fraud. Herbert is investing virtually nothing in alternatives while pushing filthy coal energy will all his might.

Meanwhile, AZ and NV are actually building thermo-solar plants that will power large cities. UT is just "thinking about it."

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

@Irony Guy,

Re: "Herbert is investing virtually nothing in alternatives "...

How would Gary Herbert invest in alternatives???

Gary Herbert has no power plants. Not ONE!

If anybody invests in "alternatives"... it would be Rocky Mountain Power... not Gary Herbert!

Gary Herbert can set priorities, but he has no power plants. He can't just start investing State money in power plants!

==========

I've figured out that if YOU want to invest in alternatives... you have to do it yourself.

You can't expect everybody ELSE to do it. Or the Government to do it, but you do nothing.

And we don't totally control the power companies (except with our purse strings). If you want them to change, you quit giving them your money and tell them when they clean up their act you will start giving them your money again.

If everybody did that... they would either be out of business in a few months or years, or they would be providing cleaner energy (and getting our money again).

But the FIRST step is... to do it yourself. Get some solar panels, and quit giving your money to Rocky Mountain Power.

Hutterite
American Fork, UT

Clean coal. It's like saying 'healthy cigarettes'.

CoalSense
Helper, UT

If Gov. Herbert were serious about coal, he would direct Mr. Stewart to pursue a partnership with Pacificorp and the Federal Government to construct a new coal fired power plant utilizing carbon capture to prove coal can be an important part or our energy future. Instead, we go on blaming President Obama or condemning coal as dirty. It is as naive to believe we can shut down the coal fired power plants as it is to deny global warming. All this talk about supporting coal is shallow rhetoric. Money drives everything and right now natural gas is a less expensive source of fossil fuel and renewable energy is heavily subsidized. Hold the President to his word. Subsidize a coal fired plant to show it can be done. But I forget, Carbon County has never been a favorite of the State of Utah.

LDS Tree-Hugger
Farmington, UT

‘My view: Coal plays important role in powering Utah’

=========

Sure it does.

But thinking it should be our ONLY source of power - forever - is just not smart thinking.

As a left-wing tree hugger, I'm not even proposing doing away with ALL coal,
Just saying we should be weaning off of it as our primary source,
and converting over as new, better, cleaner, and renewable sources come on line to fill the void...

But I'm not an extremist.
I do not believe in All-or-Nothing-ism.

joeandrade
Salt Lake City, UT

Thanks Mr. Stewart, for reading the headline of my Coal MyView piece published June 15. Although you read the headline, you apparently didn't read the content of the piece. Fortunately most of the other commenters here have noted the shortcomings and misleading nature of your words.

Coal can never be 'clean'; it will always release CO2 and a wide range of trace elements and other toxic constituents. The only practical way of sequestering CO2 is to feed it to growing algae or plants. The best way to sequester it is to leave it right where it is, in the ground.

You say "there may very well be a day when coal's role in energy production is diminished." Yes, and that day is today, as your Energy Summit keynote speaker so clearly stated. Were you there, listening? Herbert was.

The time is now to work with our fossil fuel counties to move on. Where are the state incentives and programs to get beyond coal? Where is the Governor's vision for a 21st Century economy for Utah? These are not partisan issues. These are health, environment, and economic issues.

Thanks for reading - and thinking.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

@LDS Tree-Hugger

Re "But thinking it should be our ONLY source of power - forever - is just not smart thinking"..

Well... it's not our ONLY source of power even today. And I haven't seen anybody say it should be our ONLY source of power in the future. Nice straw man though. Easy to make that one look silly (but nobody actually thinks in those all-or-nothing terms).

What people ARE saying is... we need it for now. Don't blow the bridge we're driving on, until the new bridge is ready.

Utah needs coal today. We probably will for awhile.

My suggestion would be... keep using coal/gas while we develop an alternative that can eventually replace it. And THEN quit using coal.

Wind and solar aren't available by demand (like fired power plants). Sun and wind are available when available. You can't say... "We expect extra need at 4:00 so crank it up". You can't crank up the solar plant at night for lights, etc, needed at night. That's why both require a more reliable and predictable backup source (when they are not at top capacity but need is high).

SAS
Sandy, UT

Funny how the phrases "global warming" and "climate change" appear nowhere in this article.

Here's another missing phrase: "head in the sand."

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

Wind and solar deliver between 10% and 20% of nameplate on average. Outages for solar are sometimes unplanned (e.g. cloudy days) and almost always unplanned for wind. If there is any desire for reliable energy, back-up is required. Are those costs included in your accounting?

If solar and wind were as economically viable as some claim, they would require no subsidies. People would be falling all over themselves to build them.

(And as far as we can tell from the empirical data, increases in atmospheric CO2 have no effect on the environment other than increased plant life and crop yields.)

FreedomFighter41
Provo, UT

@ pops

So why are dirty filthy fuels needing subsidies too? If they're so great then they shouldn't need subsidies.

one old man
Ogden, UT

Pops, your argument doesn't hold any water because the solar and wind power installations are tied into a national power distribution infrastructure.

When the wind doesn't blow or the sun fails to shine in one place, it is blowing or shining in another. Power from those places is routed to the areas where it is needed, just as it will be routed away from those places on other days.

And if coal and oil were as economically viable as some claim, they would require no subsidies. So why are they subsidized?

FreedomFighter41
Provo, UT

This pro coal editorial shouldn't come to anyone's surprise.

Have you seen how much the coal industry has invested in "free speech" towards our governor? Wow! Let's just say, they've given him a lot of free speech!

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

To claim that coal and oil require subsidies because they aren't economically viable is far beyond absurd. If they aren't economically viable, then what powers our economy? Chipmunks in squirrel cages?

You need to do the Gilligan's Island thought experiment. If a bunch of people are stranded on an island in the Pacific, their labor will at first all be focused on getting sufficient water, food, and shelter (in that order) to survive. If they manage to survive and stabilize an economy of sorts, what might enable them to specialize, so that some are able to focus on something other than survival? It's the energy balance. Take the available energy (human power), subtract what is necessary for survival, and what is left over can be used for other purposes, like maybe building a boat. But if the balance sheet comes out negative, then people will begin to die.

To be continued...

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

It's no different with us. Coal and oil provide such an enormous surplus of energy beyond what we need for survival that we are able to go off and become engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so on. Going to less economically viable alternatives, such as wind and solar, will cut into the surplus, reducing the number of non-survival jobs available in the economy. If you don't earn a living by manual labor, then your job exists solely because of coal and oil.

So, to say that coal and oil require subsidies to be economically viable is complete nonsense. There may be general energy subsidies in order to provide access to energy for the poor and disadvantaged, but it certainly is not because coal and oil can't make it on their own.

marxist
Salt Lake City, UT

Hey Pops, for what it's worth from the Sierra Club:

"...Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of the Inspector General released a report confirming U.S. coal companies receive massive subsidies from U.S. taxpayers for mining leases on public lands. The Inspector General’s findings come on the heels of the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis 2012 report which revealed that the current Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leasing program cuts U.S. taxpayers out of billions of dollars in revenue."

What this is saying in essence is that coal outfits get real, real good deals on leases of public lands, almost steals. I know for a fact this is true.

Sensible Scientist
Rexburg, ID

Coal is plentiful and cheap, but the time has come to replace it with natural gas and nuclear power. Coal is just too dirty.

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