Renewable Energy Could Be Key to The West's Future… If Environmentalists Get On Board

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. 

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8 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    I hear ya! Environmental interests are trying to force the shut down of 2 Washington DC area power plants. The effort will make the plant shut down a foregone conclusion w/i 5 years, resulting in more coal generated electricity in the Ohio River Valley a necessity and more transmission lines as a requirement. With that PJM has authorized a new 500kv line, and now other environmentalist are currently fighting a war against Dominion Power in No. Virginia to stop those lines. Its all NIMBY just on a larger scale. As the NERC says, it will take a combination of generation, transmission, conservation, and demand response management with an combined effort from gov’t, participants and customers. Right now though, it looks like for at least the next 10 years, its all coal, gas & nuclear generation and transmission lines here on the east coast, and pollution and transmission lines flow from the west to the east!

  2. Bill Fox says:

    the family owned a wind turbine in a wind park down just out of Palm Desert. (Imagine that my Dad the enviornmentalist) Because of enviornmental idiots care for those poor birds, that turbine was not able to be run 100% of the time (yes it was for the birds) A wind turbine that doesn’t run all the time has more breakage problems than 1 running all the time and of course produces less revenue. Lets see, more expense less revenue. Thats not a receipe for success Our wind park went bankrupt the family 120k wind (40k paid by Uncle Sam) turbine sat there in the sandy wind and self destructed from lack of use. We need nukes for clean energy and along with that an open season on enviornmentalists

  3. Kristi says:

    Dang it Jesse! I couldn’t even finish reading this. I JUST decide to not do sociology grad school and you have to post THIS! (my thesis was on coal-fired power plants and population change).

  4. Jesse says:

    Maybe you should stop stealing my thoughts. 😉

  5. Dan says:

    Hey Jesse,

    Actually nuclear energy seems to be a favorite these days of environmentalists, for good reasons too. I live really close to a nuclear power plant here in Pennsylvania, and one of the members in our ward is one of the main engineers there. We talk often about nuclear energy. Environmentalists see their mistake back in the 80s of overdoing the hype of nuclear energy risks. The amount of energy produced by a single nuclear power plant easily outdistances solar power and wind power. Right now, most if not all nuclear power plants are all working at 100% capacity in the United States.

    I’m for building more of them, and many environmentalists are jumping on the nuclear energy bandwagon.

  6. Jesse says:

    I’d be less hesitant about nukes if there was something being done to address the waste issue. Being firmly rooted in western states, I see how the junk science is used to try and railroad smaller states into taking waste they don’t produce from power plants they don’t use. Can’t the nuclear industry come up with something better than burying it and hoping for the best? It seems like the last 30 years of wrangling over Yucca Mountain and Goshute could have been spent researching ways to reprocess waste into something less harmful.

    Until that point comes, you can count me and a lot of my fellow Utahns and Nevadans out of the nuclear bonanza. If other states want in, I want to know they aren’t going to try forcing the waste onto us.

  7. Bill Fox says:

    I suggest they dispose of it back where they mine it from. South Eastern Utah, and South Western Colorado. Wind will never be allowed, solar unless we can find a way to produce power commercialy (not individual homes) it will never become practical

  8. Nice post. Looks like wind power is really starting to get some serious consideration in Australia now.

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