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We have better energy options than coal

Dan Richardson

Dear Editor,This letter is in response to Howard W. Earnest’s letter titled “Electricity from coal good for Colorado.” Howard’s perspective is that the coal industry in Colorado accomplishes two important tasks: that is it provides valuable jobs, as well as boosts our economy. There is no doubt that the coal industry does both, but unfortunately so does the sale of illegal drugs and prostitution. The question is can we create a stronger economy with less impact on future generations by alternative means?If coal-fired power plants were the most efficient source for electricity, the debate would be short. The fact is pollution represents wasted resources, and therefore coal-fired power is very wasteful. For example, our nation’s power plants convert fuel (mostly coal) into 33 percent electricity and 66 percent wasted heat. This technology is neither efficient nor clean. Saying that Colorado coal is `clean,’ is like saying Marlboro `Lights’ are healthy. Our coal is just clean-er than, say, West Virginia’s coal, which isn’t saying much at all. For the sake of a good, healthy debate, let’s forget about the pollution and global climate change resulting from coal-burning power plants; let’s talk “typical” economics. (Typical economics refers to the misled notion that our environment is a product of our economy and not vice-versa.)In the book “Natural Capitalism,” authors Paul Hawken and Amory & Hunter Lovins wrote, “In those years (1979-86) the country got 14 percent more energy from sun, wind, water, and wood and 10 percent less from oil, gas, coal, and uranium. The economy grew by 19 percent, but total energy use shrank 6 percent (mostly due to unprecedented energy efficiency efforts). By 1986, CO2 emissions were one-third lower and annual energy costs were about $150 billion lower than they would have been at 1973 efficiency levels. Sustaining that pace today would by itself meet America’s Kyoto target on time and at a profit.” Just imagine the possibilities if we had a free market!Where the coal industry lacked efficiency in power production, they made up for it in labor efficiency. Again from Natural Capitalism, “Actually, climate policies threaten miners’ jobs much less than do the coal companies, which during the years 1980-94 eliminated 55 percent of their miners’ jobs, while coal output rose 25 percent.” Also reading between the lines was Professor Steven DeCanio, senior staff economist for President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, noting, “Instead of a threat to jobs, reducing the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels can be seen as an investment and job-creation opportunity, because of the new equipment and technologies that will be required.”Sure we can grow the current economy by burning more coal, but by doing so, we’re not only selling ourselves short but also the future generations from whom we’re borrowing these resources. Albert Einstein said it best: “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.”Dan RichardsonGlenwood Springs


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