Ben-David: Who will pay for gambles on coal?

Ben-David: Who will pay for gambles on coal?

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Editor:

Coal-fired power plants are rapidly closing in Wyoming and across the globe; the industry has been on a downward trend for years. Here in Wyoming, PacifiCorp will shut down their Kemmerer, Rock Springs and Glendo power plants by 2026. No, they’re not closing their coal-fired power plants because of environmental or climate change concerns. As publicly owned corporations with a commitment to their shareholders, they are retiring coal because it’s inefficient and the plants are too expensive to operate.

Let’s consider the proposal to invest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal. The feasibility and effectiveness of this technology is dubious at best. Currently, only two commercial CCS plants operate in North America, and they function at much lower capacity than planned. As Wyoming journalist Dustin Bleizeffer recently remarked: “Not even China, with its government’s [financial] backing and loose regulatory rules, could make an economic case for [CCS] at commercial scale.”

Even if the technology were to improve in the next few years, it would add substantial expense to the already uncompetitive cost of burning coal. And yet, Governor Gordon and the Wyoming legislature are pushing hard to invest Wyoming’s dwindling revenue in developing CCS, thinking the utility companies will recover some of the cost.

But who will actually end up paying for this wasteful gamble? We will. The “ratepayers” are expected to cover the cost of this unproven and expensive misadventure. What for? Our state funds would be much better spent on expanding renewable energy sources and attracting non-polluting, innovative businesses that bring high-paying, stable jobs to Wyoming. We should focus on retraining our hardworking coal workers so they are ready to join Wyoming’s new industries and in creating new opportunities for young Wyomingites.

The free market is speaking; we should listen. A dying industry does not merit continued investments, our people do.

MERAV BEN-DAVID, Laramie

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