An Energy Policy Runs Through It

Hydropower projects on Mon River directly in the flow with our future

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
23 November 2011

None of us knows the length of our days. However, they are finite, unlike a river’s. Sure, we can measure a river’s length and determine its headwaters and mouth. But little, aside from dams and droughts, ever slows its advance. Rivers like the Monongahela will be streaming inside their banks — and occasionally over them — for eons. Last week, we learned a Massachusetts-based company is sizing up the Monongahela River’s constant flow for two possible hydropower projects at dams in Monongalia County. In recent years energy policy has become a topic, like politics and religion, that can make many people uncomfortable. Our position is simple: We do not favor gutting our state’s economy and jobs by curbing coal and gas revenues. And we also unequivocally favor exploration of alternative energy sources and compliance with environmental regulations. As we have said before, the economy and the environment are inspeparable. You cannot maintain one without the other. Plans to build hydropower projects at the Morgantown Lock and Dam and the Opekiska Lock and Dam should be fully explored with not only an eye to additional jobs and tax revenues, but to its impact on the river and our environment. There’s no price on this river’s flow, like the sun; just on the equipment that captures, saves and transmits its power. Those are fixed costs. Businesses likes few things more than predictability. At the very same time, initiatives, like those at Morgantown’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) should also continue on clean coal. There are a centuries of coal reserves and other fossil energy below our feet. We’re confident labs like NETL and others can do the research to make the use of coal more cost effective and cleaner. We see an increasingly bigger market for clean energy technology in the future, including hydropower and clean coal. Moving toward healthy, more sustainable sources of energy should be encouraged. If we can couple cleaner fossil fuels and alternative energy sources, then we might not always be caught up in this trap of thinking we must choose between jobs or the environment. There are skeptics who neither believe in clean coal or natural gas, or hydropower and arrays of solar panels. But we have to stop thinking only in the short term. There is life beyond any one of these sources of energy, but in our estimation the life of most of them can go on — like a river — forever.