Opinion

A measured response to climate change

by Don C. Brunell
President, Association of
Washington Business

There is no doubt that our climate is changing. It has been for thousands of years and probably will for centuries to come. In this world the only constant is change itself.
That doesnt mean we shrug our shoulders and look the other way. It will take a measured approach with good science to address this crucial issue, which by its very nature, seems overwhelming.
It reminds me of an old-fashioned cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail fraught with danger from predators and rustlers. The key to success is to prevent a stampede and the carnage which could result.
For example, jungles provide atmospheric cleansing when trees and underbrush absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. But there is a stampede in Indonesia and the Amazon to clear the jungle to plant crops such as palm oil, a prime ingredient in biofuels, and sugar cane, the source of Brazils ethanol.
Meanwhile, there is a drive to eliminate fossil fuels which really are carbon-based. Whether it be coal, natural gas or oil, those sources remain abundant and are important to our future. Rather than a stampede to close all fossil fuel plants while our competitor countries like China build them at a rapid clip, we should find ways to use carbon-based fuels wisely and with minimum harm to our environment.
For example, Energy Northwest proposes a clean coal plant at Kalama. It is part of new technology which significantly reduces carbon dioxide.
Similar technology is working for oil and natural gas production on the Norways west coast. Natural gas from the Draugen and Heidrin oil fields is piped to Shell-Statoils Tjeldbergodden Complex to generate electricity. Carbon dioxide is captured and re-injected into the oil fields releasing more oil for extraction.
This system captures 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year including 2.1 million tons from the power-generating station. That electric plant produces six percent of Norways electricity and provides hundreds of family-wage jobs at the site.
Statoil believes the Tjeldbergodden project is the tip of the iceberg. Company geologists identified a sandstone formation (Utsira) beneath the North Sea which they believe can store 600 years of carbon emissions from all Europes coal and gas-fired power stations.
In our state, Gov. Gregoire called for a climate change task force to find ways to curb greenhouse emissions. That group needs to recognize the trade-offs of all energy supplies. Whether it be power from wind, solar, biomass, coal, natural gas, hydro or nuclear plants, each has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is to build upon what works and solve what doesnt.
As the task force launches its year-long drive, it would be wise to avoid a stampede to a predetermined solution. Washington can be a leader in climate change while maintaining a strong economy if we apply logic, proven science, and balance.
In short, look at all ways to provide energy and strive to make them cleaner and safer. Then we can sell that technology to countries like China and India which are building coal-fired power plants at a lightning pace.

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