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A Seat in the House

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Photo by C. Gerfried Photo by C. Gerfried

Planning for the energy future

The Idaho legislature is a part-time legislature meeting annually beginning in January of each year and adjourning usually in March or April of the same year. The actual end of the session is dependent upon the difficulty of establishing a balanced state budget and taking action on legislative proposals independent of the appropriations and budget setting process.

This does not mean that a legislator’s responsibilities are over for the year; we continue responding to constituent concerns and many legislators are involved in interim committees to assist in keeping informed about issues that are important to Idaho citizens.

One of the issues important to our state is our ability to meet our energy needs. There are many options available for meeting our current energy needs, but planning for our future needs is becoming more complex as we look at various economic and environmental impacts associated with each energy resource.
As a member of the House Committee on Environment, Energy and Technology and as Co-Chair of the interim joint committee on Environment, Energy and Technology I attempt to keep abreast of issues that impact Idaho’s ability to meet the energy needs of our state. In conjunction with this responsibility I participated in a workshop on gasification held in Terre Haute, Indiana and hosted by the Gasification Technology Council.

Gasification of coal and other carbon based fuels (such as petroleum coke or biomass) converts these fuels into a clean synthetic gas (syngas) that can be used for a slate of products, including several chemicals, fertilizers, liquid fuels, substitute natural gas (SNG), or hydrogen.

I was particularly interested in the use of the syngas to produce electricity from coal. Gasification has been used for more than 35 years in the electric power industry and currently there are nineteen plants located in the United States and over 140 gasification plants operating worldwide.

Advancing gasification technology has reduced environmental impacts significantly, but carbon dioxide emissions resulting from coal fired electric generation continue to remain a serious environmental problem. In an attempt to solve this problem public-private partnerships in the United States and other nations continue “developing carbon capture and storage technologies capable of achieving up to a 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.”

Given the advances in technology “clean coal electrical generation” is becoming more of a reality and more acceptable as a clean alternative source of baseload electricity. As one U.S. Department of Energy participant in the workshop stated: “clean coal is not an oxymoron”!

Notwithstanding the advances in coal fired electric generation the use of coal as an energy resource remains controversial. Because of controversy surrounding a proposal to build a coal fired generation plant in Idaho in 2006, the Idaho legislature passed legislation in that same year that placed a two year moratorium on construction of certain coal fired power plants in the state. However the legislature still recognized the value of plants utilizing “the integrated gasification combined cycle technology” to produce electricity from coal and excluded this generation process from the moratorium.

The 2007 Idaho Energy Plan states that “when acquiring resources, Idaho and Idaho utilities should give priority first to cost effective conservation, energy efficiency and demand response and second to cost effective renewable resources. However the legislature also recognized that these options might not suffice to meet our energy needs and included a recommendation in the energy plan that Idaho utilities “should have access to a broad variety of resource options consistent with Idaho’s policy objectives, including both renewable and conventional resources”.

Based on the information that I learned at the workshop I believe that because of the continuing advancement in “clean coal technology” that we will be able to utilize our vast coal reserves in an environmentally sound matter to help meet our nation’s (and our state’s) energy needs and at the same time reduce our dependence on foreign oil and natural gas.

As I stated in the beginning of this article, planning for our future energy needs is complex and will require a diversified energy resource mix. Coal can be and needs to be an economical and environmentally acceptable part of that energy mix in order for us to be able to meet our future energy requirements!

Thanks for reading! And as always I welcome your input on issues important to you. You can contact me at my home phone at (208) 265-0123 or by mail at P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho, 83825.

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

gasification, energy, syngas

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