Oregon has become the latest state to give Utah coal-fired power plants the heave-ho, following the lead from California cities like Truckee and Pasadena in seeking out more eco-friendly power sources. With left coast cities calling it quits on buying electricity from Intermountain Power, that leaves the entire West in a lurch. California still needs to buy the power, and we still need to sell the power. What we don't seem to understand is that we're living in the middle of the solution.
Our western neighbor, Nevada, has enough wind, solar and geothermal energy resources to power the entire United States. Utah is in a similar position with a potential for 23 billion kWh of just wind power. Even Gomer Pyle can figure out that we have what California wants, and they're willing to pay top dollar for it. It should seem a no-brainer to be pumping billions of dollars into developing these untapped resources, yet Utah power companies are insistent on juicing short-term gains out of more coal. This disconnect from consumer demand could very well cost us big-time in lost jobs and tax revenues as more states and cities reject dirty power sources.
And yet, might there be a reason they aren't pursuing these resources? Most of the best places to build wind farms are mountain passes, usually located in remote areas. Solar needs vast stretches of undeveloped land to flourish. Geothermal power requires building on top of hot springs. If you just thought "man, I'll bet that really cheeses off the environmentalists," go buy yourself a Coke on me. In their quest to save everything and anything from the blight of mankind, environmentalists are asking to have their cake and eat it too.
There is a simple reality: no amount of conservation can possibly reduce overall demand for electricity in a nation with a growing population. To ask us to eliminate dirty power while simultaneously opposing the construction of eco-friendly power sources because of environmental damage is talking out of both sides of your mouth. Which way is it, earth boys? Do you want us to cut back on greenhouse gases or leave a barren dry lake bed in its pristine and undisturbed state? I've even heard complaints about wind turbines causing some problems for migratory birds. (I hate to say it, but the birds getting chopped up in the blades of a big rotor probably weren't in the running for the survival of the fittest. Just sayin'.)
Some environmentalists have even gotten loony enough to start suggesting new nuclear power plants. Despite having brand new technologies that improve safety and efficiency, we still haven't found a solution for the by-products that doesn't consist of burying it in a hole in the ground for longer than recorded human history. The reality of the matter is that nuclear isn't viable for political and ecological reasons and barring some new major development, that isn't changing anytime soon.
No matter your political stripes, getting on the bus with our massive reserves makes sense. Environmentalists need to realize that, like it or not, humans like electricity, so they need to start giving up a few fights. Business leaders need to wake up and smell the fat sacks full of cash money that Californians are willing to pay for our steady breezes and sunny skies. With all sides working together on massive renewable energy projects, we can solve the power problems of the West, eliminate coal power, and possibly even lower the costs of renewable energy through mass production.
I know you guys at the Capitol are pretty busy right now, but maybe you should think about tackling this issue sooner rather than later.