Coal Rush Reverses, Power Firms Follow

The mayor of Missoula, Mont., is the latest person to discover just how unpopular coal plants have become.

In early August, Mayor John Engen (D) won city council support to buy electricity from a new coal-fired plant scheduled to begin operation in 2011. He said the city government would save money on its electric bills.

But three weeks later, Engen pulled out of the deal after receiving hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from constituents upset that Missoula would contribute to the creation of a coal plant and concerned about what the town would do if the plant never got built.

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Wind energy is the solution

A 7/29/07 IR editorial outlined the myriad of coal plants that have been shelved recently. It concluded that without coal-fired generation, pressure for nuclear power rather than energy conservation wind, solar and other renewable energy will only grow. It indicated we would do well to “think hard about all our alternatives because doing without electricity isn’t going to be one of them.”

Thankfully, we have thought hard. The Western Governors Association has several fine studies on energy. Its 19 state area will need 30,000 megawatts of new energy by 2015. We can obtain more than three times that amount without increasing coal or nuclear power. Instead, energy needs can be met by conservation, and fuel-cost-free renewable energy from the sun, wind, geothermal, etc.

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Coal plant prospects poor

Last week was a tough one for proposed coal plants in Montana —the Bull Mountain plant near Roundup hit a permit snag and an environmental group filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Highway Generating Station near Great Falls — but coal-plant woes aren’t limited to Montana.

Across the country, prospects for new coal-fired generators just keep getting blacker.

According to a front-page Wall Street Journal story last week, plans for coal plants are falling by the wayside from coast to coast because conventional coal-fired plants are seen as too dirty and cleaner plants are seen as too expensive.

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