Craig reacts to Obama's recent announcement on climate change action plan

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Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station is one of the local power plants that would be affected by President Barack Obama's recent announcement on his climate change initiative to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s fleet of coal-powered electrical generation plants.

CRAIG — The area’s biggest economic players took a hit this week as President Barack Obama announced Tuesday his climate change initiative to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s fleet of coal-powered electrical generation plants.

That has significant implications for northwest Colorado’s power plants and coalmines, though those implications might not play out for several years. The coal industry — so important to Moffat and Routt counties — already has problems in the United States, losing market share to the natural gas industry as power plants shift from coal to less expensive and cleaner natural gas.

Speaking before a Georgetown University audience of students, Obama said, “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why, today, I'm announcing a new national climate action plan.”

Sidestepping a gridlocked Congress and using authorities under the Clean Air Act, the President said he will issue a series of executive orders to federal agencies — particularly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Key components of the plan to reduce U.S. carbon emissions:

• The EPA will issue draft emission rules for existing power plants by June 2014, to be finalized a year later. States will be required to file implementation plans by June 2016.

• EPA will expedite finalizing rules for new power plants that the agency issued last year.

• A pledge that the federal government will draw 20 percent of its power from renewable sources (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal) by 2020.

• Calls for an additional 10 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.

• Sets goal of 100 megawatts of renewable energy on federally subsidized housing by 2020.

• Sets up a new, $8 billion loan guarantee program for advanced fossil fuel projects at the Department of Energy (clean coal, high-efficiency power plants, carbon capture and sequestration, etc.).

• Directs the Department of Transportation and EPA to work on fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans for after 2018.

• Creates goal of cutting at least 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030, via energy efficiency improved standards.

• Ends U.S. funding for fossil fuel energy projects overseas, unless they include carbon capture technology.

Obama took a tough stance with those who would deny that climate change is a problem.

“I am willing to work with anybody … to combat this threat on behalf of our kids,” he said. “But I don’t have much patience for anybody who argues the problem is not real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

Obama has overwhelming support from the world’s scientific community. A new study published in the journal “Environmental Research Letters” pored over nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers from 1991 to 2011 — the work of 29,083 authors and 1,980 scientific journals. The study found that 97 percent of the nation’s and world’s climatologist scientists say climate change is driven by humans burning fossil fuels.

Local views

Two Craig men have wildly different views about climate change, but both have years of community service and a deep regard for the people of Craig and Moffat County.

Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid is a recent retiree from Tri-State Generation and Transmission, and Dr. Allan Reishus, M.D., retired after 30 years of treating patients in Craig.

Kinkaid

A control room operator for 33 years with Tri-State, Kinkaid ran for county commissioners last year on a platform of pro-energy development and against regulations.

He hasn’t changed his stance since then, and not in the wake of a new climate change action plan presented by President Barack Obama last Tuesday.

“Diversity in the economy is all well and good, but energy is our bread and butter,” he said. His son works as a miner at Twentymile Mine, so he values the good paying jobs at Tri-State and area coal mines.

He flat-out does not believe that humans have anything to do with climate change and states that temperatures have stopped rising. Kinkaid emphasizes that scientists used to say in the 1970s that an ice age was coming — now they’re saying the opposite. He’s also heard negative things about climate researchers in Great Britain and Pennsylvania.

No fan of Obama, Kinkaid expressed alarm about the national debt, scandals in Washington and the over-regulation of business. He closed his email, saying “The only engine powerful enough to pull our economy out of the great recession is domestic energy production. Moffat County has what the nation needs. Energy. Let us keep doing what we do and let us do more of it.”

Reishus

Dr. Reishus said there’s not a doubt in his mind that climate change is real and is driven by humans burning fossil fuels.

“The science is clear, and I’m a scientist,” he said.

Understanding basic science, the scientific method, the value of peer review, Reishus doesn’t understand why people can’t see what he sees. He’s traveled extensively in Europe, where the majority takes climate change seriously and invests in renewable energy like wind and solar.

“It is kind of like discussing religion,” he said, recognizing that people have dug-in positions.

He appreciates the quote by muckraker Upton Sinclair, who once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

“That’s Craig,” he laughed.

Yet Reishus recognizes the seriousness too — that his neighbors and former patients all worry about what might happen to the local mines, power plant, economy and their jobs.

“I don’t want to see draconian or rapid change,” he said. Incremental changes, like lowering emissions and expanding renewable energy are preferable.

What now?

The President’s climate action plan has no immediate impact for coal mining or coal-burning power plants. It will take a couple years at least for the EPA to figure out regulations and for states like Colorado to work out the implementation.

In the meanwhile, national market forces will likely continue to encourage power companies to switch from coal to natural gas. That trend also makes it unlikely that any power company will want to invest in a new, coal-burning power plant, which in turn means that national consumption of coal will level off (best-case scenario) or decline (worst-case scenario for coal mining).

Conservation groups report that over 170 coal-burning plants have been cancelled in recent years and predict that a quarter of the nation’s 500 coal-burning plants will be retired within a decade.

The outlook for coal is wildly different at the global level.

The International Energy Agency reports that global coal consumption is now up to 8 billion tons a year, driven mostly by increased demand by India and China.

Indeed, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82 percent).

China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption — almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.

Comment from Tri-State Generation and Transmission

“We are fundamentally concerned that the EPA is attempting to craft greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act. Greenhouse gas issues are a substantially different regulatory proposition from other regulated emissions and should be addressed by Congress. If carbon regulations are to be considered, the most appropriate course of action is to craft and debate the approach in the Congress,” wrote Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications.

“Cooperatives are forward thinking about how to manage carbon. As a consumer-owned, not-for-profit utility, we must be able to manage the risks and costs of carbon regulation for our members. We are investing in a wide range of carbon management technologies that could help us address the risks that come with carbon regulation.”

Brodie Farquhar is an award-winning freelance journalist who has worked extensively in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington and Arizona. He has a master’s degree in natural resource policy from the University of Michigan and served the Colorado School of Mines as public information officer in the early 1980s.

Comments

Sage_Sam 1 year, 5 months ago

I have no idea what John Kinkaid is using as his factual basis for his belief that "temperatures have stopped rising."

Worldwide 2001-2010 was the warmest decade since thermometer-based observation have begun and since 1970, the United States is warming at a higher rate that the rest of the world. According to NASA, 12 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years.

Those are facts---not opinions---facts. By ignoring facts and refusing to address the issue at hand, all that Mr. Kincaid and other who share his beliefs are doing is passing the buck onto their kids and grandkids. They're already leaving the legacy of giant debt from social security and Medicare, now they want to leave future where little investment has been made into new energy sources and a West that has less water, more people and no plan for the future.

Thanks for being so "conservative."

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 5 months ago

Kincaid is most likely referencing this Der Speigel piece from January (Der Spiegel, for the uninitiated, has been one of the loudest Chicken Littles on the global warming bandwagon): Climate change: scientists baffled by the stop in global warming http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/stillstand-der-temperatur-erklaerungen-fuer-pause-der-klimaerwaermung-a-877941.html I can't find an English translation, but this Economist article provides a decent analysis of both the Spiegel piece, and of the New Republic's assault on it: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/06/climate-change The short version, according to the anti-Speigel New Republic: "Since 1998, the warmest year of the twentieth century, temperatures have not kept up with computer models that seemed to project steady warming; they’re perilously close to falling beneath even the lowest projections".

The UK's Met Office has been one of the go-to data sources for the alarmist crowd, and in March concluded: “...there has been no statistically significant increase in annual global temperatures since 1997.”

The alarmist crowd is up in arms and attacking the some of the conclusions derived, but not the data - the facts - used to reach those conclusions. There's been no meaningful temperature increase for the last 16 years, despite the most sophisticated predictions to the contrary.

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jeff corriveau 1 year, 5 months ago

One of the most important questions that needs asked is of Senators Bennet and Udall:

Do you support Obamas position to limit coal powered electrical power? Yes or no!!! No BS just answer the question. Then we will find out the true colors of these lawmakers. Will they support the people of Colorado, and all the jobs associated with our coal industry or will they once again drink the Kool Aid and join up with "Team Obama"?

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leroymcgee 1 year, 5 months ago

Mr. Kinkaid and others on the County Commission can either keep their heads in the sand and hope that somebody digs them out, or they can pull them out and start looking around for new ways to diversify our economy in the region. These guys are a disgrace to the western mentality...instead of striking out and trying to make a new and better world for all of us and our children, these guys cling to their old myths and faulty notions...hoping that the facts will change before their opinions do. Someday, the citizens of Moffat County will look back on the people we've elected to speak for us and laugh, until then all we can do is cringe.

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sheepsheerer 1 year, 5 months ago

I can tell you some true basics on progressives/Liberals and then perhaps the great Americans (Conservatives) can connect the dots. Liberals/Progressives(same thing) have a hatred for Conservatives more than anything on this planet. When they make laws, they are not doing it to satisfy themselves, they do it to oppose Conservatives. EPA is nothing more than a group of Liberals with a hatred for the Great American way of Free Enterprise/Capitalism and forces regulations on American businesses far more than one can imagine. And they do it all by Executive order (no voting required or in perspective, dictatorship). Costs are 4 times to produce energy from solar power or wind. Yes the Arctic is decreasing in size but the Liberals don't tell you that the Antarctic is INCREASING in size. I better stop before they silence me because there is nothing more the liberals hate is opposition. Conservatives in Craig I luv 'ya and never give up because Progressives never sleep.

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ATeklu 1 year, 5 months ago

Obviously Dr. Allan Reishus is a resident of Craig who doesn't want to see the town suffer economically, but he also understands that our energy sources need to diversify and there is a way of doing it with care and consideration to the people of Craig.

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