A $250 million proposal to help coal-fired power plants survive? It’s socialist. No, it’s not socialist when proposed by Republicans. It’s capitalist market enhancement.

Actually, fossil fuels have been a socialist form of energy for decades. Ever since we knew that emissions of greenhouse gasses were leading to climate instability, in turn leading to more severe storms, droughts and even increased volcanic and earthquake activity, fossil fuels became socialist in that we never made them pay for the cleanup or damage. Instead, through reinsurance corporations, all of us who bought insurance policies paid for increased policy claims elsewhere. Insurance companies “socialize” or spread the costs, passing them throughout the industry by acquiring what you might call super-insurance policies in case something big goes wrong in Louisiana or Turkey.

Furthermore, as the U.S. military has been warning for years, the effects of climate destabilization causes economic upheaval in countries with frail governments, forcing mass migrations stressing national borders, like ours. Coal doesn’t pay a penny. In fact, almost three decades ago, coal recognized that if they had to pay to clean up their trash, wind and other sources would be less expensive. So, they got the legislature to make it illegal for the Public Service Commission to even consider those costs.


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A manufacturing company that doesn’t have to pay to remove their trash has a competitive edge. If people around the plant get sick from toxic waste blown out the back door……well that’s their problem. Coal-fired power plants just pump their trash into the atmosphere. Anyone gets sick or injured, too bad. Coal says, hey, we provide great jobs so don’t ask us to be responsible for our trash.

Well, now it appears that coal power generators may be asked to pay for their trash. Hence, that cost could be passed on to customers. Some electricity companies, like Xcel, decide they are not going to buy as much coal sourced power because of the damage and increased price. North Dakota Republicans, and even some columnists, had a coal-power induced tantrum. How dare Xcel not buy our coal power. [Note: I am a proud Xcel customer]

So, here is the Republican plan. Don’t worry coal, North Dakota has oodles of taxpayer money to lavish on it. Project Tundra is the name and it is only $1 billion to start. Here is how it works.

  • Dig coal up.
  • Burn coal stripping off the carbon dioxide.
  • Inject the carbon dioxide back into the ground.
  • Place “a wide array of monitoring technologies” to “track CO2 movement in the subsurface, including down-hole and surface CO2 sensors.” [Source: Project Tundra Website]

So, because the carbon dioxide was stuffed underground instead of in the atmosphere, it’s all maybe good. So enamored are some with this skim and stuff plan that they are talking about piping CO2 in from out of state to stuff in North Dakota. Think about it, North Dakota could become a national dump or CO2 preserve.

How long would we need to monitor the CO2? Forever. Will North Dakota be paid to maintain and monitor in perpetuity? Nope. That would make coal too expensive again. But, we would have jobs.

What if once we’ve done all this, nobody still wants to buy our coal-fired power? Maybe something about being responsible? Then, well, we do what North Dakota does best and take them to court saying if we produce it they must buy it.

This is North Dakota socialist industrial policy at work. Stand in the middle of the track of life and scream the future down. Rather than use $250 million to help build base-load electric storage solutions that would catalyze our wind and solar opportunities, rather than get ahead of the future…..we force-feed the past.

Joe Richardson lives in Fargo.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.