Straight Talk From Steve: Nebraska Needs Coal
August 10, 2023
Last week Nebraska State Senators learned that the Federal Bureau of Land Management will soon begin enacting the Buffalo Resource Management Plan in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. This means that a moratorium is being placed on the mining of coal in that region because the lands are federally owned. In their attempt to go green, the Biden Administration is refusing to renew lease agreements in the Powder River Basin, which supplies roughly 40 percent of the nation's demand for coal.
This decision will have a direct effect on folks living in Western Nebraska. To give you some perspective, consider that the Gerald Gentleman Station, located along State Highway 25 in Sutherland, Nebraska, supplies electricity to approximately 600,000 Nebraskans using clean, low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin. Because Nebraska relies so heavily upon coal from this region for its energy needs, 19 Nebraska State Senators signed a letter last week to the project manager, asking him not to move forward with the moratorium or any other prohibitions against coal mining in the Powder River Basin.
Nebraska, along with many other states, cannot afford to go without coal. Recall that during the winter of 2021, Midwestern states experienced a unique weather event which shut down power lines and caused rolling blackouts from North Dakota all the way down to Texas. Wind turbines as far away as Texas froze and natural gas was in short supply. Without coal, the winter of 2021 would have been much worse.
Renewal energy alone cannot supply Nebraskans with energy on demand. Wind turbines produce energy only when the wind is blowing and solar panels produces energy only when the sun shines. There is currently no efficient way to store wind and solar energy, so going completely green would result in untimely black outs. Because it takes a few hours to get a coal plant fired up, wind and solar can only supplement our reliance on coal, that is, so long as we value having our energy on demand.
Renewable energy is also inefficient. What makes renewal energy so inefficient is its energy density. Energy density is how you measure energy, such as by volume, weight, or area. When it comes to energy density, renewable energy comes out much lower than traditional energy sources. Because renewable energy sources also require some kind of storage, they represent the most inefficient ways of producing energy.
Renewable energy can be very expensive to transmit. In cases where electricity generated from wind or solar has to be transmitted long distances to a population center, such as in the Nebraska Sandhills, the costs associated with energy transmission are very high. For this reason, former State Senator, Mike Groene, once famously remarked on the radio that the City of Lincoln needed to put a wind turbine on the 50-yard line at Memorial Stadium. The point is that wind energy become much less expensive to transmit when it is generated near a population center, but the people living in the cities do not want the noise pollution nor do they want to look at the wind turbines.
I share these things with you today in order to alert you to the green policies of the Biden Administration which are now threatening Nebraska's power needs. A responsible energy plan would be one that meets Nebraska's needs for energy on demand, respects the pocket books of those who pay the energy bills, and one that does not leave Nebraska vulnerable to another winter storm like the one we experienced in 2021.