Our view: Environmentalists’ actions spur unintended economic suicide | CraigDailyPress.com

Our view: Environmentalists’ actions spur unintended economic suicide

Many residents of Northwest Colorado have been in crisis mode lately. The federal judge’s ruling against the Office of Surface Mining, which puts the Colowyo Mine and its South Taylor Pit operation in jeopardy, has rattled our cage in this community. The potential loss of this mining operation would be devastating to Craig, but we need to refocus and realize this fight is bigger than Colowyo, Trapper, Twentymile or Craig Station. This is really a fight over whether Americans have a right to affordable energy.

While Jeremy Nichols likes to write in his blog that he is "an environmentalist. And I don't support Clean Air – Clean Jobs," we question the unintended consequences of his agenda. If you read the website for WildEarth Guardians, it becomes abundantly clear this organization is not just against electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, it is against natural gas, fracking and nuclear energy as well. Where does that leave our energy future in America?

We rely on affordable energy to power our homes, businesses and industries. The United States is an energy-dependent nation. According to the World Bank, 100 percent of the citizens of this country have access to electricity. WildEarth Guardians wants that energy to come only from renewable, non-carbon-emitting sources.

In 2014, only 7 percent of the electricity generated in the United States came from wind and solar power, and 41 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. was consumed supporting residential and commercial buildings alone, according to the Independent Statistics and Analysis Energy Information Administration. That figure does not include electricity consumed by industries in the manufacture of products or farming.

The reality today is that America cannot afford to eliminate carbon-emitting energy sources. It would crash our economy and threaten our national security.

The infrastructure and means to supply this nation’s electrical needs from solar and wind does not currently exist. This is Jeremy Nichols and WildEarth Guardians' "inconvenient truth."

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In a free market-based economy, demand drives production and cost. When you eliminate production, supply dwindles and costs sky rocket. Imagine your electric bill if the U.S. suddenly tried to exist solely on what wind and solar could generate. The "all or nothing" agenda of environmentalists like WildEarth Guardians regarding fossil fuels is economic suicide.

The poverty gap in this country will widen, as citizens who struggle to afford electricity now are priced out of the market as electrical costs rise. Could the United States fall from a developed nation to resemble countries where only small segments of their populations have access to electricity like Malawi (8.7 percent with electrical access) and Liberia (4.1 percent with electrical access)? These are World Bank figures.

What WildEarth Guardians is proposing removes America's ability to increase production, as it attacks the infrastructure currently in place to generate the production. Yes, there would be a big push to increase what wind and solar now produces. However, these renewable sources cannot meet the need and are costly.

According to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mining provided 202,300 jobs in April 2015, and the oil and gas industry provided 808,400 jobs. These figures do not include jobs supporting these industries. Loss of wages, insurance, tax revenues and royalties from these industries would create an economic disaster, not only for the people employed by these industries, but for our entire country. These figures do not include people employed at coal-fired, natural gas, or nuclear-generated power facilities.

While Jeremy Nichols bemoans the sounds and sights of coal mining he imagines he hears and sees while floating the Yampa River, he should imagine a new, "green" landscape, where forests are mowed down and mountain sides are littered with wind turbines, and our grasslands are tiled over with solar panels in our quest to meet our nation's energy demands.

Creating an inability to meet energy demand is economic suicide. And are renewable energy sources truly environmentally friendly? The WildEarth website does not mention any impact wind turbines and solar farms have on our wild bird populations, or the wildlife populations displaced as these eyesores begin to litter our landscapes. An innocent oversight, for certain, as they claim they are for the protection of wildlife.

Addressing the challenge of climate change is complicated and cannot be solved without creating an economic catastrophe should this nation eliminate all carbon-emitting energy sources. Western coal is a different product from anthracite coal mined in the eastern United States. It is high in Btu, low in sulphur and ash, plentiful, affordable and should be embraced, rather than dismissed, when designing a competent energy strategy for our nation's future.

Al Gore stated in “An Inconvenient Truth,” "As many know, the Chinese expression for 'crisis' consists of two characters side by side. The first is the symbol for 'danger,' the second the symbol for 'opportunity.'"

Residents in Northwest Colorado are justified in feeling like their economic futures are in danger. They are. But we have also been granted an enormous opportunity to set the facts straight on clean western coal, climate change and our nation's economic future. Don't miss this opportunity.

Editorial Board:

Corrie Ponikvar — Community representative (absent)

Bonnie Hulstine — Community representative

Renee Campbell — Newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — Newspaper representative