MtLeg Viewpoint: Unleash Montana’s Energy Potential
"We must unleash Montana’s energy potential so that our kids and grandkids will have a good future."
Energy is the lifeblood of human civilization and progress. Transportation, manufacturing, the Internet, heated homes, clean drinking water, agricultural production, and almost every other vital component of our modern lives relies on having consistent and reliable access to energy. Energy is also essential to our national security and independence. Just look at what is going on in Europe.
Montana can help secure that energy future. Our state can be an energy producing powerhouse, for the nation as well as for ourselves, if we unleash our state’s potential. We have coal, oil, gas, wind, sunlight, geothermal, hydropower, and the infrastructure to transport nuclear-produced energy.
Radical environmental ideology, politics, bureaucracy, and red tape are putting all of that at risk. What started as the War on Coal is quickly becoming a war against most all energy sources. Many of the same people who’ve been working to shut down Colstrip are now opposing nuclear and natural gas. Solar projects sometimes face lawsuits from the radical environmentalists. Dams have already been breached in Oregon and a strong movement, backed by politicians and environmental groups in Washington and Oregon, have proposed pulling dams on the Columbia river.
If the answer to every energy project is “no,” the people of Montana will not have a good future. That’s especially true when it comes to projects that would produce reliable, baseload power. I’m not opposed to wind, solar, and batteries, but those things alone aren’t going to cut it. When the demand for power peaks, we need to be able to generate energy at will so we have enough supply. That’s where coal and nuclear come in. The Legislature is currently studying the viability of future nuclear power production. In my opinion, nuclear will be the long-term answer to our baseload power needs.
Nuclear can provide the reliable energy we need. While not as affordable as coal, it is available 24/7/, 365 days a year and modern reactor technology makes it incredibly safe. Natural gas is an option, but the difficulties in permitting pipelines and the volatility of pricing make it more uncertain.
With Colstrip’s massive transmission infrastructure already available, the long-term solution absolutely must include nuclear. But because of the long lead time in sighting, such as permitting, reactor design, and construction, nuclear can’t be the short-term fix. The existing coal-fired power plant is the solution to our immediate baseload power needs. Colstrip power production, coal mining, and related indirect roles employ 3,000-4,000 Montanans in high paying jobs. Nuclear is very similar in number of jobs, with the average pay even a bit higher. These jobs add to the economic health of our state and keep our most precious resource—the people of Montana—working.
To have reliable baseload power, to have the energy we need to power our lives, we must reject radical ideology and get unnecessary red tape out of the way. We must unleash Montana’s energy potential so that our kids and grandkids will have a good future.
Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, is a former coal miner and longtime leader on Montana energy policy.
Frontier Institute’s Mtleg Viewpoint series provides an opportunity once per month for Montana legislators to deliver an update about topics that matter to our followers. Offers to publish columns were made and remain open to both the Legislative Majority and Minority. Opinions expressed by guest authors do not necessarily represent the positions of the Frontier Institute.