Friday, June 22, 2012

Energy in Utah

With gas prices on the rise to record heights, America’s energy independence has never been more of an issue than it is in this election.  Working class Americans are struggling with rising costs all around them: not only is gas more expensive, so is electricity, and with those increased costs, all basic commodities such as food are becoming more expensive.  These prices are subject to numerous factors, and there is no silver bullet that can or will completely alleviate these rising costs.

A topic that arises constantly in the discussion on energy is drilling for oil.  This is particularly important for Utah residents because of the vast amounts of oil and gas considered to be contained in Utah lands.  A recent report by the Government Accountability Office estimates that in the Green River Formation shared by Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, some 3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil lie untouched--that’s enough to power our nation’s vehicle fleet for two hundred years.  Unfortunately, the fact that the majority of these resources are currently under Federal control has taken the choice to develop these resources out of Utahns’ hands.  The benefits that come to a state that utilizes resources like oil are significant.  Similar oil extraction programs are underway in Arkansas, Texas, and Pennsylvania, creating thousands of jobs and adding billions of dollars to these respective states’ economies.

Another hot topic this year is nuclear energy.  The Blue Castle Project near Green River, Utah has polarized the debate.  Those for this new nuclear power plant cite its substantial increase in electric power generation in state.  Detractors are concerned about the large consumption of water from the Colorado river involved as well as the possible effects of a meltdown.  The reality is we need energy and our population is growing.  And there are environmental consequences for all types of energy: nuclear power brings with it the risk of meltdown and concerns regarding waste disposal; hydroelectric power comes at the expense of rivers; traditional coal-derived electricity inherently pollutes.  We must strike a balance of meeting our population’s needs while addressing these real and important consequences.  My son Robert was serving as an LDS missionary in Tokyo, Japan at the time of the historic Fukushima meltdown following the devastating tsunami in Sendai.  My wife Joye and I know firsthand the worry and concern that come with having loved ones in the path of such disasters.  Accordingly, safe implementation of sources of power such as nuclear is a high priority for me.  If the Blue Castle Project is to go forward, it must be accompanied by a specific and safe plan for disposal of waste as well as measures to prevent possible meltdowns.

There are basic policies that our government must practice in order for us to best serve American families that are trying to weather these trying times:
1. First and foremost, ensure the safety of Utah residents.  Dangerous and irresponsible development of energy resources, however profitable, must be discouraged.  
2. Be wise stewards of the environment.  The development of nuclear power in Green River must be carefully considered for its long-term effects, and all pros and cons must be weighed.
3. Use the resources available to us.  Promote the continued development of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources throughout the state.
4. Where necessary, take back Federal lands that rightfully belong to Utah so that Utahns can reap the benefits of responsible development of energy resources.

Together, we can take important steps that will help Utah safely and responsibly utilize our abundant natural resources.