April 23, 2008
By Jack Spencer and Nicolas Loris
Coined the Beehive State 160 years ago, Utah connects its
beloved symbol with hard-working industry and pioneer virtues of
thrift and perseverance. Considering the likely impact of Gov. Jon
Huntsman's energy initiative, Utahns will need every bit of those
Utah, like many states nationwide, faces an energy problem.
Demand is rising by 2 percent a year, even as the desire to reduce
CO2 emissions grows. Efforts to find solutions are complicated by
burdensome regulation, legal restrictions and activist
Governments everywhere are developing a two-pronged approach in
response to the dilemma. First is to mandate conservation (read:
rationing). The other is to cap carbon-dioxide emissions.
These are the peanut butter and jelly of modern energy policy.
In reality, it will be virtually impossible to affordably build new
major power plants once CO2 is capped. So to prevent rolling
blackouts and public outrage, governments are forcing energy
rationing through conservation mandates.
This is Utah's formula. In 2006 Gov. Huntsman, following
legislation introduced by Rep. Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan, called for a
20 percent efficiency improvement in state agency buildings by
2015. Then last May, Huntsman joined five other states in the
Western Regional Climate Action Initiative to combat global warming
by reducing greenhouse gases. The initiative plans to have a
cap-and-trade system designed by August. Because of its heavy
reliance on fossil fuels, Utah will be especially hard-hit by these
regulations. More than half of Utah's coal production is for state
electricity generation, and 98 percent of Utah's energy comes from
Bringing nuclear energy to Utah can help. It is emissions-free,
affordable, proven and safe. It already provides the U.S. with 20
percent of its electricity, but none to Utah. That could soon
change. According to a recent poll, 57 percent of Utahns favor
nuclear energy. They may soon receive their wish.
There is a proposal to build two 1,500-megawatt reactors in
Green River that would provide the state clean and secure energy
while adding some diversity, which could help lessen the blow of
The old days of anti-nuclear fearmongering may be over, but Utah
has not fully recovered from 30 years of anti-nuclear propaganda.
As a result, many continue to harbor misperceptions about the
technology. Nuclear energy is often maligned for being too
expensive. Experience tells a different story. Uranium-fueled
reactors produce electricity for less than coal, gas or renewable
plants. Of course, today's reactors are all paid for, and new
reactors will include the construction costs. Nonetheless, given
the 60- to 80-year life span of the average nuclear power plant and
the low fuel costs, utilities across the country are champing at
the bit to build new plants.
Then there's security. Nuclear plants were secure before Sept.
11. But now they're extraordinarily secure. If they were such easy
targets, at least one of the 440-plus plants around the world would
have been attacked at some point. They have not.
And finally, safety. Not one person has ever been killed as a
result of a nuclear accident at a U.S. commercial nuclear power
plant. And that includes Three Mile Island. No one wants Homer
Simpson running a nuclear power plant. But given the layered safety
mechanisms in place, he probably could.
With the push for a carbon-constrained society, the state and
the country would best be served by an energy mix that includes
fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy.
is a research fellow in nuclear energy at the Heritage Foundation
Distributed nationally in Deseret Morning Dews
Coined the Beehive State 160 years ago, Utah connects its beloved symbol with hard-working industry and pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance. Considering the likely impact of Gov. Jon Huntsman's energy initiative, Utahns will need every bit of those legendary traits.
Director, Roe Institute
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