However, many people seem to think we should concentrate on one type of energy or the other.
Coal has been here for a long time, but it is a non-renewable source of energy. Natural gas has also been around a long time, but it, too, will eventually run out. If the sun ever stops shining completely, we won’t have any need for electricity anyway. I have heard an estimate that the Price area coal mines will run out of coal anywhere from 25 to 100 years from now.
Without abandoning coal altogether, we should start to develop new energy sources so that we will be self-sufficient before that happens.
If Rocky Mountain Power were to pursue a course of building a solar power plant near here, it would relieve the stress on the coal-power generating plants and allow that industry to phase out slowly (like the buggy-whip industry) rather than a quick shutdown for lack of coal. Since solar only generates during the daytime hours, the coal plants could cut back their hours of operation but continue to keep us powered during the evening and cloudy times, while conserving the amount of coal in the ground until we are energy-independent.
That would give the coal mining areas time to develop other industries without harming their economy unnecessarily. Moab made that transition through tourism, and the Price area could eventually also find another industry through tourism or another source.
I believe that someone should attempt to induce energy companies to consider a solar plant above Interstate 70 where the tailings pile is being relocated. That land could not be used for many other purposes for a long time. It already belongs to the U.S. Department of Energy, which has a policy of trying to mate federal land with energy purposes.
The president just made a speech in California extolling solar power, and unless Congress fights it for some unknown reason, leasing the tailings reclamation area to a solar power company could be a boon to all the parties involved. This would also negate the need for an atomic power plant being located outside Green River.
Yes, while atomic does produce energy 24/7, it also would require huge amounts of water, a commodity that Utah has a lot less of than we do sunshine. Any problem with that plant (think Fukushima) would need to drain every ounce of water from the Green River and the local farmers’ wells to avoid a catastrophe.
Someday, we may find an energy source that will fit our needs without the dangers of atomic, without the use of nonrenewable sources, or without the limitations of solar or wind. Until that day, let us use what we now have wisely, preparing for the future rather than only thinking about the present.
We cannot simply dispose of coal mines and the miners who work them without allowing them another way of life. We cannot just open atomic power plants after seeing the destruction they can impose, and the amount of water they need, especially in the case of a catastrophe.
Neither can we expect to limit our power generation solely to solar or wind power without some type of backup.
However, we do need to start to prepare ourselves for the day that coal and natural gas run out; the day that the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine all day. Look forward, plan and execute. Please!
Jim Thuesen is retired and has lived in Moab 17 years. He has had numerous volunteer positions and now just enjoys living in town.