Utah governor: Alt-fuels have to stand on their own

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert believes in an “all of the above” approach to energy. That means renewable fuels have to stand on their own merits and compete against established transportation fuels like oil and natural gas.

“We don’t think government should pick winners and losers; we think consumers should pick winners and losers,” Herbert said Thursday at the fourth annual Governor’s Utah Energy Development Summit in Salt Lake City. “The competition between the greener sources of energy and the traditional sources of energy are acute and demanding. What I see is, because of the competition between the various sources of energy, those that are greener and cleaner are having to find ways to compete and be economic.”

That also means that there’s pressure on the oil and gas industry, too, to get cleaner. Herbert, a Republican, said energy must achieve three objectives: sustainability, affordability and less dirty.

“There is a raised sensitivity in our society to make sure we’re responsible stewards of our home, the Earth.”

Although he announced no new initiatives for cleaner energy, he touted a new state report showing the strong impact the energy sector has on the state economy. Oil, natural gas, coal and other natural resources contribute $21 billion a year in activity for the state, the report said.

Herbert said the biggest challenge he faces is how to make sure there’s sufficient infrastructure, including enough energy — coal and natural gas for electricity generation, cost-effective gasoline and diesel for drivers — to meet the demands of a growing state.

“If anything keeps me awake at night, it’s, ‘How can I handle the challenges of growth? Well, energy is a big part of that also. Part of the challenge we have is planning and anticipating for the growth pressures that surely are going to happen, whether we like it or not. I actually think growth is a healthy thing.”

Later, during an onstage discussion with Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Herbert maintained that working with the private sector has helped Utah clean up its notoriously dirty air, which accumulates along the Wasatch Front in wintertime, an affliction known as “inversions.”

“We’ve reduced the pollution levels on the Wasatch Front by 87 percent,” he said. Some critics “it’s dirtier now than ever … well, it’s not.”

After a joke from moderator Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute about Hickenlooper, a Democrat, possibly being a Democratic contender for vice president, Herbert said energy policy shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the 2016 campaign.

“The focus should be on the economy, having a healthy economy. We’re not there yet in this country. This is the longest, driest recovery period we’ve had since the Great Depression. Something’s not working right. … If your focus is on the economy, it’s got to be at least part of the focus on energy.”

“We have an opportunity to have a sustainability where we don’t have to risk national security, or our economic well-being, because the people we have to deal with [importing oil] don’t like us.”

(Photo: Utah Office of Energy)

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