Utah must focus on sustainable development of its energy resources and balance multiple uses with environmental protection, according to the head of a Danish think tank.
"Sustainable development of energy resources in Utah and the Intermountain region involves a delicate interplay of multiple-use and environmental protection, public-lands access, water resources, and the impact of energy use on climate change," Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, told business leaders Tuesday at a forum hosted at the Salt Lake Chamber.
The Utah Legislature has asked the Salt Lake Chamber and the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics to co-host a study by the Copenhagen Consensus to evaluate the impact of various energy policies on the economy of the state. Beginning in September, the Salt Lake Chamber's Energy Task Force will examine multiple approaches to help Utah businesses cope with the cost impacts of federal energy and climate-change policies.
Lomborg said his center's method is to inject research, science, calculations and facts into public policy decisions and alleviate, as much as possible, political motives. His group's central concept is that financial resources are limited, and prioritization takes place regardless of whether policymakers base it on evidence, he said.
"The intent is to provide a groundwork for prioritizing solutions to Utah's energy needs," he said. "Removing self-interest and bias from the equation and focusing on evidence is essential to determining the best use of available resources to deal with Utah's energy demand."
Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, co-chairman of the Legislature's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee, told audience members that lawmakers recognize that the state has many options for energy development.
"We look at Utah and the Intermountain West as the breadbasket of energy in our area," he said. "We have such a wide variety of energy, of renewables, of traditionals, of non-conventionals. We need to look at the balance of how those are to be developed for the future use of our generations."Barrus added that any plans for incentives for putting wind- or solar-power plants on the state's public lands, as well as developing oil shale, would have to be the most cost effective, and least environmentally harmful to those lands.