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Western Governors Conference Update II

The Western Governors Association has wrapped up its annual meeting in Park City. To their credit, the governors seem to recognize the need for coming to grips with climate change and the nation’s energy problems. Their answers however, continue to be a bit stuck in the past. As headwater entities, they encourage conservation as one of the most important ways to deal with the western water crisis, but seem to not recognize the benefits of the same model with respect to energy consumption. The conference spent a lot of time working out ways to expand the regions electrical grid to take advantage of renewable energy potential.  They released a report that identified 54 areas with renewable energy potential across the Western U.S. and Canada. They also heard from Energy Secretary Steven Chu who said “Nuclear has to be part of the mix. It’s clean, base-load energy.” Chu earlier promised loan guarantees for “three or four” new nuclear power plants in the federal stimulus package.

The governors also continue to refuse to let go of the pie-in-the-sky promise of “Clean Coal“. Governor Schweitzer said money “could be available in Montana for not only transmission line development, but also for developing new resources like carbon capture and sequestration”. In Policy Resolution 08-10 “Advancing Deployment of Near-Zero Emission Coal”, the Association “agreed that there must be support for any advanced coal technology that results in near-zero emissions“. Their strategy would include,

• Adequate federal funding for the identification and mitigation of any risks and
liabilities associated with carbon sequestration;
• Adequate federal funding to support the identification and development of CO2
pipeline infrastructure necessary to transport CO2 to sequestration areas;
• Development of regulations that provide for legal consistency in the treatment of
CO2, whether it is sequestered through enhanced oil recovery or in designated
sequestration storage areas;
• Development of federal tax credits to be awarded for the capture and
sequestration of CO2.

Yes, the myth of Clean Coal Technology is alive and well in governors offices around the West, at least if the empty promise can be filled with plenty of federal funding.

We realize that this meeting was merely a strategy session and the reality will be much harder to achieve, but western states, at least the Rocky Mountain contingent will continue to push the need for development of extractive coal-and-oil-based energy to the detriment of renewables so long there is money to be made. The upcoming challenge for those of us who live in the region will be to convince our leaders that becoming pacesetters in truly renewable energy will result in more long-term benefit than continued reliance on technologies of the past century. Nobody said it would be easy.

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