Letter to the Editor

County perfect for new power

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear editor:

Elmore County, aka Alturas County, has a history of providing and transporting what was needed. Early it provided gold and silver, later it provided wool and beef and now it is providing energy.

The Oregon Trail is a good example of early transportation in the county. Currently the hydro, natural gas, and wind turbine electric plants are obvious energy providers.

In addition, Elmore County has many carriers for energy. Four major electric power lines pass through the county, three for Idaho and one for Oregon.

In addition, the natural gas and petroleum pipelines and of course the railroad and interstate highway pass through the county.

What Elmore County offers is space and space is what is needed for energy production as well as the transportation of energy.

What Elmore County lacks, and the residents hold dear, is water. Some forms of energy production requires no water, such as wind and solar. Others require more, such as coal and nuclear and of course hydro requires a great deal.

From the county's tax base standpoint it would be great if we had it all, energy produced from water, gas, coal, wind, nuclear, solar, and geothermal.

From the state standpoint, it would be great if we were transporting energy by overhead electrical lines, underground gas and oil line and coal and nuclear by truck and train. For the residents it is not so clear the advantages of all of this energy production and transportation. There are risks and public costs associated with any production.

For a resident each energy source and mode of transportation has its good and bad points and not all would agree with any one assessment.

For me, starting with the best, I would rank power sources as follows:

1. Wind--Wind requires no water and uses little productive space and take advantage of wind, of which we have plenty.

2. Solar--Solar requires little or no water, uses a lot of space, and needs more sun then we have.

3. Geothermal--Geothermal is available in the county but the technology is not yet available to recover it efficiently.

4. Natural Gas--Natural gas based power has been developed and will likely continue to be developed in the county but it has a high cost and so many things can be made from it that using it for more than back-up power is a waste, and we are only converting it to electric not producing.

5. Nuclear--Nuclear based power uses water, the design determines the amount and it can be held to reasonable amounts. The public perception of the safety is out of line with reality but it is nonetheless their reality.

6. Coal--based power and the clean coal technologies is an improvement over the old coal power plants but it still has a way to go.

If Elmore County had a chance to have some of each of these energy producing facilities and the E on our license plates could stand for energy and not Elmore I would pass. If I could get more wind energy facilities and a nuclear facility I would jump at the wind facilities and I would want to know a lot more about the nuclear facility

Risk from energy facilities are related to the energy density of the fuel. Wind has little energy per volume, coal, gas, and oil has a greater energy density and greater risk, nuclear has the greatest energy density and the greatest risk.

If I were to go out and buy a nuclear power plant I would want one from a proven developer, of a proven design, built by a proven contractor, and operated by a company that had a safety operating history. If I could get all of these things and a low use of water I would also jump at a nuclear plant.

As of now, I do not know about the company currently planning a nuclear plant for Elmore County. It would be good if this company would publish its resume with the information listed above in order for the county residents to determine if it fits into their vision of energy production and transportation in the county.

Leonard Hutterman