Western Governors Push Coal as ?Clean?

By Published On: April 17, 2004

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a two-year Western clean energy plan at the opening of the Western Governors? Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 14. The plan includes a goal of 30,000 MW of clean energy by 2015 along with a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption through conservation. ?Clean,? however, is in the eye of the beholder. Despite the focus on renewables in the North American Energy Summit, coal appears to be on everyone?s minds. Richardson, as well as governors from states other than California, voiced their support for coal-bed methane and ?clean coal? technologies. ?I think Governor Schwarzenegger?s goals and my goals are very similar,? Richardson said. He lauded California?s influence in renewables. ?California alone could shift the American energy economy in coming years,? he added. However, his concept of renewables includes supplies that would not meet California?s green standard. Richardson deferred questions about the divergence of definitions of clean energy to other governors?all of whom supported coal-bed methane and other coal technologies as ?clean? energy. When it comes to coal, other Western politicians are the promoters. Schwarzenegger was a no-show at the conference; thus, while policy makers noticed California?s influence, they essentially ignored the state. Western states such as Wyoming have coal to mine. ?But we want it developed in an orderly fashion,? said Wyoming governor David Freudenthal. He said that while coal is an easy short-term fix, the state also has enormous wind potential. Others pushed coal unabashedly. Alberta prime minister Ralph Klein deflected the ?assertion that coal is ?dirty?? by stating that more ?environmentally friendly technologies are being developed each and every day.? He added, ?There?s a downside to green power,? including the life-cycle cost of photovoltaics. These costs include the economic and environmental costs of manufacturing in relation to the project?s total output. ?Wind farms aren?t pretty. Complaints are coming in about visual pollution,? Klein added, pointing to California wind farms as an example.

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