Friday, June 14, 2024

Keeping the lights on

| July 20, 2023 12:00 AM

Kristi Niemeyer asked the billion-dollar question, what do we need to do to keep the lights on now that warming is here in the Flathead and poised to get much worse?

First things first is to stop the greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution causing the warming. Right now, the EPA is proposing significant new restrictions on GHGs. This is the best news since sliced bread. The latest research on the costs of climate change sets the "social cost of carbon" at $200 a ton. Montana's Colstrip plants spew 10 million tons of carbon a year. Do the math.

The EPA has identified reasonably priced, proven technologies to cut carbon pollution from Colstrip and other coal-fired power plants. The regs are here: You can support these regs by commenting before Aug. 8. Send an email to and write "Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2023–007" in the subject line.

Second, the fossil fuel industry – taking its cue from the cigarette companies – has created the myth that clean energy isn't adequate or that methane (natural gas) is a "bridge" to clean energy. Bunk!

Mark Jacobson, Director of the Atmosphere/Energy program at Stanford University, testified last month at the Held v Montana trial that it's not the technology or the economics or the lack of skilled workers holding us back. It's our politicians' lack of will and the fat checks they take from the fossil fuel industry.

Transitioning to wind, water, and solar would save Montana ratepayers over $2 billion by 2050. Read more:

Finally, this transition is good for rural communities. We are on pace to spend $30 billion a year between now and 2030 building clean energy. The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) did case studies in three different regions to see what happens when wind and solar come to rural communities. In short, these communities thrive with new revenues, vibrant agriculture, and new jobs. If Montana refuses to change, the money will go elsewhere. The RMI study is here:

Jeff Smith