Paul Kulas
Valley Voices

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March 19, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Alternative answers

This is a response to Don Rogers’s column “Better Than Pow.”

In this piece, Rogers basically praises the Global Energy Forum — which is really nothing more than a front for the fossil fuel industry. It should be renamed, “The Global Fracking Forum.”

In his piece Rogers writes, “The hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, so feared with so little cause by the public has evolved over the past 60-70 years that the discussion about “peak oil” is a forgotten memory. That and all the advancements in horizontal drilling.”

Rogers’s views, which seem to be bought and paid for (more on that coming) indicate the environmental concerns of fracking are much ado about nothing.

Just recently, Duke Energy was responsible for contaminating the ground and water in North Carolina and now West Virginia. According to a February CBS News report, “The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic sludge to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools, turning the river water a milky gray for miles. It was the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

“State health officials have advised that people not eat fish from the river and to avoid contact with the water. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury and a host of other chemicals that are highly toxic to humans and aquatic life.”

On Feb. 24, NPR’s Diane Rehm reported on the Duke Energy spill. “Earlier this month, a broken pipe owned by Duke Energy leaked toxic coal ash into North Carolina’s Dan River. And two weeks later, a second leak from a different pipe spilled more arsenic-laced chemicals into the river. While the water ban has been lifted in West Virginia, thousands refuse to drink the water. And in North Carolina, tests of river water show high levels of iron and aluminum”.

I guess reports of don’t go near the water, don’t eat the fish and that thousands won’t drink the water don’t qualify as cause for concern for Rogers?

Rogers goes on to write, “But then again, the actual state of energy will be dominated by fossil fuels out of necessity for a long time to come. The ratio of presentation and discussions was about right for the reality, actually.”

Again, this indicates that Rogers is in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. According to his view, we should stay the course with fossil fuels, which pour CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Luckily, entrepreneurs have gone around Rogers’s ostensibly bought and paid state of “reality.”

In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Bill Gates talks about climate change and his view of reality. When asked about climate change, Gates says we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 90 percent immediately and that we need to get to “zero CO2 emitting” energy sources. When Gates was asked “We’re heading for big trouble, right?” Gates responded, “Absolutely.”

ENERGY INNOVATIONS

Rogers also ignores the tremendous progress of energy innovations that are out there today, producing energy at costs lower than fossil fuels.

Rogers goes on to write, “Still, I’d advocate for a little more room for the renewable aspect and the crazy-sounding innovations in energy sources, efficiencies and the long-term future in that quest for Davos, along with maybe more of other energy think tanks and such participating.”

Rogers wants readers to believe that anything beyond oil and gas is “crazy.” I’ll just list a few alternative energy wins. (There are thousands.)

• Tesla Motors. Their technology is changing the automobile industry. Tesla pushes updates to its cars via the cloud, which eliminates most trips to the dealer for service. Tesla’s Model S was Car and Driver’s highest rated car ever, it has the highest safety rating in America. Right now Tesla’s cars are only affordable for the wealthy, but this is changing. They’ve already announced the production of cars in the sub-$60,000 range — still not affordable for the masses, I agree. Their eventual goal is to produce electric cars everyone can afford. Tesla is run by Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal. Tesla has made a dent and will forever change the automobile industry.

• Bright Source Energy. Bright Source Energy has low cost, efficient solar thermal technology. Solar Thermal stores heat, which is a lot easier to store than electricity. Gates is investing in solar thermal, because of its low cost and scalability. Google is also an early investor in Bright Source Energy. Between Bright Source’s two projects in California, Ivanpah and Hidden Hills, over 300,000 homes will be powered. The Hidden Hills project will generate construction wages of nearly $160 million and total employee earnings estimated at nearly $550 million. The project will also generate over $300 million in local and state tax revenues.

• Sunpower Corp. Sunpower has over 100,000 residential systems installed. Fortune 500 companies such as Dow Jones, WalMart, JC Penney, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, AT&T, Macy’s, Lockheed Martin and Target, just to name some, rely on Sunpower to power their operations and reduce energy costs. Sunpower’s technology is in use by the Department of Defense and large power plants.

• TWR technology. There’s exciting development in next generation nuclear energy — Traveling Wave Reactor. One company developing TWR is TerraPower, which Gates has invested in. From the TerraPower website: “TWR offers a safe and economic form of low-carbon energy that meets base load demand for electricity. It offers enormous environmental benefits, high barriers to proliferation and uninterrupted energy security that significantly address many of the issues faced by today’s reactors.”

TWR utilizes depleted uranium. Just in the United States there’s more than 750,000 metric tons of depleted uranium sitting useless. TWRs could convert this material into enough electricity to power all U.S. households for more than 700 years.

Full disclosure: I’m going to invest in TWR and TerraPower.

The reader should not get the view that I’m demonizing the oil and gas industry. Companies such as Exxon are partnering to develop solar thermal and solar chemical. Exxon is providing funding to TerraPower and they’re supporters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However I agree with what Gates says, which is that we need to cut our CO2 emissions by 90 percent fast and be working round the clock to develop alternative sources of energy.

Full disclosure. I’m in technology, we’ve used Microsoft software for 23 years. I’m a big supporter of Bill Gates and the work he’s doing. I own Sunpower Solar panels, I own solar thermal panels. I’m an advocate for the environment. I have family members who are executives in oil and gas. I’ve studied energy from both sides for years now. Like Gates, I believe if we don’t adopt energy sources that drastically cut, then eliminate CO2 emissions within the next 15 years, we’re in big trouble. My view is that we’ll face global conflict and chaos once unimaginable. Closer to home, when you look at the Flat Tops Wilderness area, picture the industrialization of the landscape. Because thousands of acres up there are slated for fracking.

WHO SIGNS HIS PAYCHECK?

It makes sense that Rogers has this view. His paper is run by Bill Toler, a Texas A&M alum and board member. Texas A&M gets millions of dollars each year from oil and gas. In fact, Texas A&M University Systems just signed a huge oil and gas deal with Tenaris.

Given who signs Rogers’ checks, does anyone else out there wonder if Rogers would find himself in the hot seat, or even out of a job, if he did his homework and wrote about the truth?

There’s alternative energy sources out there today that are ready to go and that cut CO2 emissions dramatically.

What’s stopping these low cost sources of energy from mass adoption are politicians and lobbyists. Cutting CO2 means getting away from oil and gas, an industry that gives lots of money to politicians — on both sides of the isle.

Turning away from oil and gas is something Rogers’ boss Toler would also be against, given all the money it funnels to Texas A&M each year. It’s also not a popular view here, given the ties the valley has to the oil industry. So writing about the facts would surely impact CMNM’s (the Daily is part of a chain of papers operated by Colorado Mountain News Media) advertising revenue.

Folks, what happened in North Carolina and West Virginia can easily happen here if you let our precious land be industrialized.

Readers in the valley should be calling Rogers out for ignoring the facts and taking sides. In fact, if the Daily won’t start reporting the truth on this important issue that affects our food, air and water, I’m calling for an all out boycott of the paper.

Rogers finishes off by writing, “We lay people are rather woefully uninformed, and this is a great way to catch up with the latest in energy, which has such huge implications for how we live day to day, as well as our economy, politics, relations with other countries and even probably on whether certain wars are fought”.

You’re right Don, you’re “woefully uninformed.” Please start telling the other side of the story and doing your homework. I know I’d appreciate it. I bet other readers would, too.

Paul Kulas lives in Eagle.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 19, 2014 10:02PM Published Mar 19, 2014 03:39PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.