Consider coal as a gift this holiday seasonby Brad Jones on Dec. 17, 2008, under Opinion
Christmas tradition has threatened a “lump of coal” in the stocking for those who were naughty.
With the challenges facing our economy and energy infrastructure, coal should be looked upon as a special gift providing affordable and domestic energy.
Some lay claim to the notion that Arizona should steer away from the source providing nearly a quarter of its electricity. Instead, some say renewable energy is the answer. In fact, renewables are just part of the answer.
Arizona currently ranks in the top quarter of the country with the highest electric rates. States nearby, such as Utah and Wyoming, are among those with the lowest electricity rates. This is partly due to their reliance on coal to meet their energy needs.
In fact, one of Arizona’s leading energy companies has just requested a 6 percent rate increase to cover the rising cost of natural gas. But utility rate increases aren’t new in Arizona. Energy costs have doubled just during the past five years.
The fact is demand is not waning; it’s increasing as fast as population growth statewide. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that electricity demand will grow 41 percent by 2030.
Solar and wind power are great to work with coal during high-demand energy moments in a day, but they can’t generate enough power and be translated into electricity quickly enough to sustain the requirements of our laptops, cell phones, iPods or our cooling and heating needs.
Coal can serve our energy needs, lighting every twinkling light, iPhone, and Wii through the next 250 years of holiday celebrations.
With the nearly 250 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves in the U.S. (the equivalent of 800 billion barrels of oil, more than three times Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves), giving coal as gift says, “I believe in our country’s energy independence.”
The median household income in Arizona is $48,308 a year. A recent study of information from the U.S. Department of Energy shows families with an annual household income below $50,000 pay 24 percent of their after-tax earnings on energy.
That’s roughly $5,000 per year on utility bills while their income has had an average increase of only $261 since 2001. That doesn’t leave much for other necessities, let alone holiday gifts and celebrations.
As far as the environment is concerned, coal-based electricity plants are 70 percent cleaner since 1970. At the same time, our use of coal has tripled. New clean coal technologies and continuing investments in emissions control systems also make coal part of the energy mix for the future.
Coal has long been an economic boon for our nation and with constantly evolving clean coal technologies, some developed at Arizona State University and at the WESTCARB Partnership in the Colorado Plateau, coal can be this season’s gift that turns our economy around.
More than $6 billion in clean coal research is underway right now in 41 states, including Arizona, boosting those communities with jobs and revenue.
Global demand for power generating technologies and services is anticipated to create a $480 billion export market over the next three decades and support more than 600,000 jobs in the U.S. power-equipment industry.
Of course, China is diligently working on greenhouse-gas-capturing technologies of its own. But don’t we want the jobs and fiscal strength clean-coal technology will bring to stay right here in the U.S.?
So, go ahead. Put coal in the stocking of your favorite people. Tell them it’s a gift that Arizona cannot overlook in creating a balanced energy strategy that includes efficiency, security, economic development and the environment.
Brad Jones is the west region communications director for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (www.cleancoalusa.org).