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Bennett discusses Utah's energy future

Senator Bob Bennett discusses energy solutions with USTAR Eastern Utah associate director Kevin Shurtleff, during an energy conference held in Delta last week.

Vernal Express Publisher

"It is clear to me that the largest and strongest economies in the world are strong because they have access to abundant and available sources of energy," stated Senator Bob Bennett last week at his 8th annual Rural Business Conference held in Delta. "Don't forget that energy is the key component to our growth and our future."

Bennett stated that even with good conservation efforts our need for more energy is increasing as we add more and more appliances and electrical products to larger and larger homes. Also, the population keeps increasing, which adds more demand for additional energy.

"One word we have to keep in mind is scale, and we will need a very large scale of energy in the future," said Bennett. "Because of these needs we cannot rule out any source of energy. This means that we not do not cut back on the amount of energy we produce, but recognize that renewables can't provide what we currently need."

"We need energy on a large scale basis. That is why I have supported R and D in renewables," continued Bennett. "Renewables cannot provide the scale of energy that we need. From an environmental perspective we cannot get all of our energy needs from renewable."

Bennett went on to define renewable energy sources to include wind, solar, geothermal and bio - mass methods, as well as nuclear.

"If we define renewables as not producing any carbon emissions."

Bennett went on to explain just how safe nuclear energy is and played down some of the misconceptions associated with nuclear power plants.

Bennett also stated that he is not pro - ethanol where "we raise food to burn in cars and this in turn raises the cost of food."

Climate change is also misunderstood throughout the world, according to Bennett. He pointed out that the facts do show that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere and that humans have put it there.

"What we don't understand is whether that threatens significant change to the climate or not. We still don't know," said Bennett.

He stated that the very best scientific minds he can talk with have said to him directly that the climate system of the planet is so complicated that they still don't know the answer to this question.

"There are a variety of things that control climate and we have only studied temperature and the acidity of oceans," said Bennett. "We do not know how controlling those two items will impact the entire climate system and we will not know until there is more investigation."

"My position is we need to study the problems and give resources needed to national labs to apply empirical evidence as quick as they can," said Bennett. "Existing evidence suggests that we don't need to be in a big hurry. We can afford 10 years of study."

In reality, Bennett proposed that the U.S. is 20 to 30 years away from having renewable energy sources in place to produce the same level of power that existing fossil fuel power plants produce. He stated that fossil fuels provide the bridge to keep our economy strong during that transition.

"We still need clean coal, natural gas and changing our oil supply, and handle these things intelligently, to keep America's economy going strong," said Bennett. "We can do this by maximizing the use of fossil fuels and lead the world into the world of renewables."

James Hewlett, general manager of Intermountain Power Agency in Delta then addressed the group. IPA is represented with 23 Utah municipalities and 13 out of state purchasers. He stated that IPP produces 15.1 gigawatt's of power annually while burning 5.8 million tons of coal.

Hewlett noted that this plant is among the lowest emitters of sulfur dioxide and mercury out of all the coal fueled power plants nationwide. He stated that they offer a power grid that can be used by those producing renewable wind and geothermal energy on the west side of the state.

Craig Broussard of Magnum Energy discussed their desire to store natural gas and even compressed air in a huge salt dome located near Delta. The salt formation is self sealing and therefore a perfect location to store natural gas.

Also, compressed air can be stored in the formation that can be pumped in using power from wind or solar plants when they are operating, and then the compressed air can be used to turn turbines to produce electricity when the wind is not blowing or the sun not shining.

Peter Sullivan, director of First Wind Milford, discussed the progress of their 97 turbine tower project near Milford. When completed the 97 wind turbines will produce 205 megawatts of power that will be shipped to California over IPP power lines.

Interesting enough, the wind farm was started as part of a high school class looking at anemometers and wind velocity in the area. Benefits to wind farms listed water conservation, no carbon footprint, which in turn frees up other resources such as oil, water and coal.

Richard Clayton of Raser Technologies discussed the benefits of electricity being produced using geothermal sources. Presently, the company is installing 50 individual power generators being installed in south western Utah.

The heat from the geothermal well water is transferred to a working fluid that flashes to a vapor. The vapor is used to turn the turbine and generate electricity. Each turbine will produce .25 of a megawatt of power and by connecting 50 generators together enough electricity can be produced to power a small city. Utah has a notable geothermal infrastructure.

Wells are drilled between 3,000 and 8,000 feet down.

It was noted that the cost of power from these wind and geothermal projects is comparable to the cost of electricity produced by natural gas or just a little higher. All of these rates are significantly higher than electricity produced by coal.

"We will pay more for power produced with new technology, plus new regulations will increase the cost on old technology," said Clayton. "In the end, we will be paying more for power."

Bennett concluded the conference by describing is energy plan.

First of all he would have tidal dams installed along the coast where head gates would be raised while the tide is rising, and shut to dam the water as the tide goes out. This dammed water would then be released through channels to turn turbines and make electricity.

He pointed out that nuclear is a viable source of clean and safe energy, even to the point of using the remaining energy in spent fuel rods so that there is not a disposal problem in the end. He pointed out that this technology is already being used in the world and would work here.

He then stated that renewables needed to be developed and better planned into the power grid and usage times, so that there is a guarantee of consistent power throughout the nation. And in the meantime, keep using fossil fuel energy in as responsible manner as possible, while moving toward energy independence from foreign oil.

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