Carbon-free energy, not carbon capture, key to combatting climate change

Submitted by Ronn Smith
Posted 1/30/20

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to two loosely related articles in the Jan. 28, Powell Tribune.

First, you reported Gov. Mark Gordon’s agreement that “climate change is the …

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Carbon-free energy, not carbon capture, key to combatting climate change

Posted

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to two loosely related articles in the Jan. 28, Powell Tribune.

First, you reported Gov. Mark Gordon’s agreement that “climate change is the single-most important issue on earth.” It is encouraging to see more and more politicians acceding to the reality and urgency of a global problem humans have created. Like low-lying islands in a rising ocean, the last refuges of denial are being steadily inundated by mounting evidence and indisputable physics.

Gov. Gordon is also correct that Wyoming can play a key role in combatting climate change. But I disagree that carbon capture and sequestration are central to that role. Decades of research have failed to produce an energy- and cost-effective way to separate carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and hide it in the ground. I would also dispute the governor’s statement that this research could help “remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” The technology could potentially reduce — not reverse — the growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

More promising as low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels are nuclear power and wind. The latest nuclear reactor designs are safer and cheaper to build than earlier versions. Wyoming is by far the country’s largest producer of uranium for nuclear power generation and could triple its production if President Trump would approve federal quotas for domestic supply. Moreover, Wyoming has some of the best wind resources in the nation. The state has already developed roughly 2,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity, with plans to more than double that in the next decade.

This brings me to the second article, wherein state Sen. R.J. Kost wrongly claimed the carbon footprint of wind turbines “could be even more than coal.” The total carbon emissions from the manufacture and maintenance of wind turbines have been extensively studied. The wind industry has conservatively established a 40-to-1 carbon advantage for wind over coal, given a typical two-megawatt turbine with a 20-year working life. According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, coal’s carbon footprint is almost 90 times larger than that of wind energy, and the footprint of natural gas is more than 40 times larger.

I’m sure both these gentlemen meant well when issuing public statements about renewable energy and climate change. But the complexity of these issues only underscores the need for all of us to do our own homework and to refrain from representing our opinions as facts.

Sincerely,

Ronn Smith

Powell

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