Turn to nuclear and coal for Montana’s energy needs
Energy is the cornerstone of human civilization and progress. Transportation, manufacturing, the internet, heated homes, clean water, agricultural production, and almost every other vital component of our modern lives depend on constant, reliable access to energy. Energy is also essential to our national security and our independence. Look at what is happening in Europe.
Montana can help secure that energy future. Our state can be a powerhouse producing energy, for the nation as well as for ourselves, if we unleash the potential of our state. We have coal, oil, gas, wind, sunlight, geothermal, hydroelectricity and the infrastructure to transport the energy produced by nuclear.
Radical environmental ideology, politics, bureaucracy and bureaucracy are putting all of this at risk. What started as a war on coal is quickly becoming a war on most energy sources. Many of the same people who worked to shut down Colstrip are now opposing nuclear and natural gas. Solar projects are sometimes subject to legal action by radical environmentalists. Dams have already been broken in Oregon and a strong movement, backed by politicians and environmental groups in Washington and Oregon, has proposed removing dams on the Columbia River.
If the answer to every energy project is “no,” Montana residents won’t have a good future. This is especially true when it comes to projects that would produce reliable staple power.
I am not opposed to wind, solar and batteries, but these things alone will not suffice. When the demand for electricity peaks, we need to be able to generate power at will in order to have enough supply. This is where coal and nuclear come in. Lawmakers are currently considering the viability of future nuclear power generation. In my view, nuclear will be the long-term answer to our basic energy needs.
Nuclear can provide the reliable power we need. Although not as affordable as coal, it is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and modern reactor technology makes it incredibly safe. Natural gas is an option, but pipeline licensing difficulties and price volatility make it more uncertain.
With Colstrip’s massive transmission infrastructure already available, the long-term solution absolutely must include nuclear. But due to long lead times, such as licensing, designing and building the reactor, nuclear cannot be the short-term solution. The existing coal-fired power plant is the solution to our immediate baseload energy needs. Colstrip’s power generation, coal mining, and related indirect roles employ 3,000–4,000 Montanese in well-paying jobs. Nuclear is very similar in number of jobs, with an even slightly higher average salary. These jobs contribute to the economic health of our state and keep our most valuable resource, the people of Montana, working.
To have a reliable basic diet, to have the energy we need to fuel our lives, we must reject radical ideology and eliminate unnecessary red tape. We must unlock Montana’s energy potential so that our children and grandchildren have a good future.
Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, is a former coal miner and longtime Montana energy policy leader.