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Letter: Coal association admits it's risky to depend on federal dollars and subsidies

Hoff writes, "Instead of investing millions in public dollars on unproven technologies, let’s invest in renewable energy technologies that are clearly the way of the future."

Letter to the editor FSA

On Dec. 8th, members of the Coal Conversion Counties association sent a letter to Gov. Burgum urging him to block funding to retrofit the Dakota Gasification plant to produce hydrogen. The leaders argued that converting the gasification to hydrogen could disrupt coal mining jobs at the nearby Freedom Mine. They especially emphasized the unproven aspects of the technology and the over reliance on federal dollars to fund hydrogen projects: “If you fail in that, do you walk away from it?" Phillips (chairman of the CCC) said of the reliance on federal funds. "And then we have nothing out here."

The concerns raised by the association are valid. It’s strange though, because they are the exact same concerns that groups like Dakota Resource Council have raised surrounding the proposed massive carbon capture projects on coal plants that the association lauds so fervently. Massive carbon capture on the scale proposed is largely untested. If these projects fail it will have been a massive waste of investment as they depend upon massive federal and state funding and subsidies.

The concerns I and groups like Dakota Resource Council have about carbon capture on coal plants are the same concerns echoed by the Coal Conversion Counties as it pertains to hydrogen production at Dakota Gasification.

There is another way forward. Instead of investing millions in public dollars on unproven technologies, let’s invest in renewable energy technologies that are clearly the way of the future. We can innovate to generate cleaner natural gas to use as baseload power during the transition, and develop new and exciting technologies such as battery storage to help with the intermittency of wind and solar.

A new future of clean and truly sustainable energy generation is upon us:  I hope North Dakota doesn’t get left behind by funding unproven technologies at a massive scale.

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Marie Hoff, Bismarck, is a member of the Dakota Resource Council.

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

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