Guest opinion: Let's protect our coal industry from environmentalists

2014-03-20T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Let's protect our coal industry from environmentalistsBy DOUG KARY The Billings Gazette
March 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Montana Elders for a Livable Tomorrow (March 14 guest opinion) sounds like a nice organization. However, along with the Northern Plains Resource Council and Blue Skies Campaign there is one common goal, to stop the production of coal, and that’s not so nice for Montana.

These groups propose several faulty claims. Foremost is their claim that alternative energy can painlessly and efficiently replace coal. This claim is only true if Americans are willing to dramatically decrease the energy we consume and at the same time decrease our overall quality of life. Will we ration electricity, or simply price it so high no one will be able to afford to use it?

Math shows us that their proposals don’t add up. After more than a decade of massive taxpayer subsidy payments, alternate energy only supplies 5 percent of our energy.

Because our government is using your money to chase alternatives, they are now a growing part of our energy mix. The Energy Information Administration forecasts that by 2040 alternative energy will expand enough to supply 8 percent of the projected energy needs if we continue to plow billions of taxpayer dollars into subsidies.

But that 8 percent certainly comes nowhere close to being able to replace the amount of energy we get from coal.

Coal is here to stay

Contrary to environmentalist efforts, coal isn’t going anywhere. Today coal meets 19 percent of the U.S. energy demand — the EIA forecasts that level of consumption will be steady over the next 30 years and beyond. Wind and solar cannot come close to replacing the energy we get from coal. It’s also important to recognize that coal has never been cleaner. Emissions from coal-fired power plants have declined almost 90 percent over the past few decades.

These groups suggest electricity generated by wind is “far cheaper” than coal. This is patently false. Even with the massive taxpayer backing that wind receives, the fact is that another fuel source must be available to keep the lights on when the wind is not blowing.

Export opportunity

The demand for coal is growing throughout the world, providing economic opportunity for our state to export a portion of our resource to the world. That will benefit Montana with thousands of jobs, millions in economic activity and the tax revenue to help keep our schools well funded.

But the environmental groups are waging a war against Montana’s natural resources. The “dark” money being funneled into Montana by environmental groups could literally put our lights out.

Doug Kary represents House District 48 in Billings Heights and is a candidate for Senate District 22. He is a member of the House Energy committee.

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