Tuesday, January 21, 2014

With Coal and Renewable, "All of the Above" Makes More Sense Than Zero Sum Game

Since 1960, according to the World Bank,  the United States has almost tripled its per capita rate of electricity consumption.  Although Americans produce goods more efficiently than ever, the nation still needs to expand energy production. Higher production means lower energy prices, which gives the United States a greater advantage in retaining and expanding needed manufacturing jobs.

This makes the zero sum argument advanced by some circles very perplexing.  Many pro renewable energy (which includes, wind, solar, hydroelectric, etc.) see expansion of coal, oil, or gas as a defeat for their side. Conversely, any obstacle put in the way of coal, they see as a victory for progress.  This may stem from the notion that any figure that supports expanding coal production and jobs must be anti-renewable.  This is far from the truth.

West Virginia Republicans have for years embraced the "all of the above" ideal of energy.  Support whatever works in a given area.  Leading the way has been Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, current US Senate candidate.  One of the nation's strongest defenders of coal and toughest critics of Obama's Environmental Protection Agency, Capito has voted to support temporary renewable energy tax credits as well as research into geothermal, landfill gas harvesting, and other innovative power production ideas.

Within the state, Delegate Gary Howell has backed the Intrastate Coal and Use Act.  This would strengthen state laws against EPA regulation of coal facilities that only sell their product within state lines.  Howell also, however, has studied the potential of wind energy for 30 years.  Wind energy production in certain parts of West Virginia drives development.  Said Howell of a wind project in his district, "I want to see growth in my community.  I want to see jobs brought into my community."

And it is not just Mountain State Republicans.  Before 2012's Iowa caucuses, six Republican presidential candidates autographed a wind turbine in that state, signifying support for innovation.

That being said, all renewable energy sources combined are dwarfed by reliance on coal alone.  For the foreseeable future, renewable sources must supplement, not replace, traditional sources of energy production.  Any profitable production, however, helps to return the US to the energy production dominance enjoyed until just after World War II.

America needs to emphasize energy.  The environment is better off if America burns its coal in plants that, even prior to the new standards, operated more cleanly than almost any nation on Earth.  Refining oil drilled in the Dakotas instead of the Middle East enhances US security.  Using and exporting natural gas drives down the world prices of that commodity, taking away some of Russia's leverage.

Each part of the US should explore how it can most safely and efficiently develop energy to its advantage.  Some parts of West Virginia should keep producing coal.  Ridgetops, however, are perfect places to put turbines.  The desert southwest should keep building solar farms to take in as much of the sun's bounty as possible.  Volcanic activity in the Northwest may be perfect for harvesting geothermal.  Even the vast landfills of the Northeast might be able to provide energy producing gasses.

West Virginia Republicans have for years publicly endorsed common sense solutions on national energy policy.  Liberals and leftists may try to tar them as a one trick pony, but the record indicates otherwise. Also, cutting back on tried and true sources of cheap energy is counterproductive.

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