The Great American Coal Controversy

COLORADO SPRINGS – Nearly the center of the country sits Colorado Springs, a city grappling with the same energy debate the whole country faces.

For some Americans, coal symbolizes the country’s position as a global industry powerhouse. For others, coal represents decades of irresponsible energy consumption and pollution that has poisoned the environment.

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) sits in the middle of the carbon tussle. As the energy supplier for a rapidly growing city, CSU still relies heavily on coal but also produces electricity using natural gas, hydropower, and a new solar array.

CSU officials have implemented more renewable forms of energy due to the pressure around coal as an agent of climate change. Greenhouse gasses, emitted from the burning of fossil dues such as coal, are considered dangerous promoters of climate change as forces trapping heat in the atmosphere.

“Practically, coal isn’t the future,” CSU chief environmental officer Dave Padgett said. He believes changes in national regulation by the current coal-supporting government will have little lasting impacts at the local level. His stance contradicts a statement Trump gave a few months ago.

“We are back. The coal industry is back,” Trump said during a rally in August in Charleston, West Virginia.A few days later, Trump officials introduced a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decree, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. If enacted, this statute would replace current regulations on coal-burning power plants from the previous Obama administration. These Obama-era regulations were stricter to help promote environmental protection and transition to cleaner energy.  Trump officials contend the previous regulations were overly restrictive and burdensome.

Reviving the coal industry was one of Trump’s primary campaign promises. Two years later, Trump seems confident that he has accomplished just that.

Many Americans however, including some within the power industry, continue to anticipate the demise of coal.

“No coal plant is going to run forever,” Padgett said.

The problem is that renewable sources of energy still typically cost more, meaning that utility bills will increase initially with the transition to greener energy production.

Padgett believes that economic forces and demand from consumers are going to have the most impact on how fast utility companies shift from coal to renewables. He said It will take radical social and cultural changes to shift successfully and quickly.

“What is the rate-payer willing to pay to ensure renewables are used?” said Padgett.

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