Renewable energy mandates take a slice of the ‘pie’ in small town Colorado

Adam Jablonowski Contributor
Font Size:

The energy business powers over 50 percent of Craig, Colorado’s economy, and makes the small town, which is home to one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the nation, a microcosm of the fight over green energy mandates versus traditional fuel sources.

Local Craig industries are dependent on the coal plant, having stayed afloat through the recession because of the growing need for energy. Alternative energy companies aim to capitalize on that growing energy market, and renewable energy mandates from the state government help the green energy industry’s case by forcing companies to diversify the sources they produce their power from.

“We’re all using more and more energy everyday” Kate Nowak, executive director at Yampa Valley Data Partners, a non-profit organization that measures economic developments in Colorado, told The Daily Caller. “I see it as a bigger pie. If we have some of our energy sources taken with renewable, I don’t think that will impact the demand.”

With a growing demand for energy, the implications of renewable energy mandates have been mixed. A survey by the Associated Press found that more than 32 coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to shut down because of the new federal air pollution regulations.

A video released by the free-market, non-profit Institute for Energy Research (IER) profiles the effect of renewable energy mandates on the town of Craig.

The coal plant in Craig complies with strict environmental regulations set by both the state and federal environmental protection agencies. Water vapor from the plant passes through a scrubbing system that removes 90 percent of chemicals and another filter washes out 99 percent of the ash. (RELATED: More stories on green energy)

But despite a record of EPA compliance, the Craig power plant might be negatively impacted by renewable energy mandates that Colorado and nineteen other state legislatures have adopted — state law mandates that 30 percent of energy generated in the state comes from renewable sources by 2020. That is a problem for Craig, where coal is by far the greatest employer.

Jeff Hubbard of IER ,who directed “The Perfect Storm over Craig, Colorado” as part of a cross-country road trip, discussed some of the consequences of state mandates to diversify energy production with The Daily Caller.

Advocates for renewable energy policies stand by “two central myths,” Hubbard explained.

“The first myth is that renewable electricity will reduce our oil imports — oil only produces one percent of our electricity generation. The second myth is that we are an energy poor nation — we have enough coal for over 500 years.”

Coal is currently the most widely used resource, generating nearly 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. With help from tax credits, about ten percent of the nation’s energy production falls under the renewable energy production label, but because of state mandates, this number is expected to increase.

Other countries have pursued alternative energy policies with little success. Hubbard pointed to three European examples he says should make Americans think twice about renewable energy mandates: Denmark maintains the highest energy prices in Europe, where the price of electricity is “three times that of the U.S;”  Germany isn’t far behind, as “renewable subsidies in Europe were lavish and now they are being rolled back because they are not sustainable;” and Spain represents the greatest model for concern, as IER found “that for every green job created, the economy lost 2.2 jobs as an opportunity cost.”


Follow Adam on Twitter