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The Art of Balance…..{Colstrip Montana Photographer}

Like many of my fellow Colstrip citizens, I have been living in a world of smoke and mirrors over the past number of months.  I can’t open up my computer or a newspaper without seeing the inevitable doom and gloom of my job, my neighbors, my town, and my livelihood.   And what disturbs me most is the lack of common sense and science behind it.

For any of you not familiar with the topic of which I speak, it is the war on coal and power.  And do not be mislead….it is definitely a political war.  And no matter how any politician spins it, the only people who are going to suffer are the working class americans.  And for what exactly?  Green power?

So I ask you, what is considered green power?  Is it wind?  It it solar?  What is the overall carbon footprint of these options?  And further more, how should America balance its energy portfolio in a way that is cost effective and environmentally conscious?

For those of you that are not aware, I am a Water Treatment engineer.  I have a double Master’s Degree in Mining Engineering and Project Engineering Management with emphasis on Chemical Water Treatment.  Lots of big words!  So really, it means that I treat waste water sources and purify boiler water for use.  I understand pollution, and I care about our environment.  I have spent over ten years of my life in Colstrip, MT.  My husband and I were both offered jobs back in 2005, so we packed up and moved our 8 year old daughter across the state.  I was so excited to come here….this plant is huge!  I provides so much power to so many people safely.  I have learned so much by being here.  When we first arrived in Colstrip, there was no war on coal politically.  Colstrip ran full load every day, utilizing environmental controls for air pollutants.  I remember being mesmerized by how clean and efficient a coal plant of this size could be.   I thought I would have a job here forever.  So what has changed?  It is the Environmental Cult and the current political agenda.

It all started with the massive subsidies that were being distributed to wind and solar, followed by the tanking prices of natural gas.  The environmental agenda will have you believe that Coal is subsidized.  And to a very small degree that is true.  But when you break down the subsidies per national power produced, it is so clear.  Wind is being funded by our taxes to make it appear economical at over triple the subsidies of any other fuel.  I am not against wind power.  I think it most definitely should be part of our energy portfolio.   But it is an expensive way to generate electricity.  I read an article the other day written by Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center at which I was nauseated after I was done.  How could anyone be this naive?  I wanted to say how could anyone be this stupid….but then my logical side reminded me the this is a blind cult.  And no matter what the facts are, this is simple ignorance.   This woman wants to shut down all coal generation in the state of Montana….and the nation.  We can call this the death of the working class.  And for what?  It isn’t going to make our state greener, no matter what this woman preaches.  It will, however, cost so many jobs.

Why won’t it make Montana greener, you might ask.  The first thing to note is wind capacity factor and availability.  Lets define capacity factor:  Capacity factor is a measure of how often an electric generator runs for a specific period of time. It indicates how much electricity a generator actually produces relative to the absolute maximum it could produce at continuous full power operation during the same period. Wind has a capacity factor around 30-35%.  So a 300 MW wind farm will only produce around 90 to 100 MW of actual load.  Additionally, the wind has to be backed up by coal or natural gas, as wind availability is only around 40% on average.  Many of the natural gas generators used to back up wind do not incorporate the higher technological pollution controls as many larger power plants.  In turn, CO2 is sill emitted and at a similiar rate per MW .  Another thing, does anyone know how a windmill is manufactured?  What materials are used?  How much metal is mined and manufactored?  All of the processes are using coal fired power to compete in the mining and manufacturing industry.  I find it ironic, that eventually, we will put them all out of business due to high energy costs.  Additionally, the chemical reactions for refining iron and making cement also produce CO2.  So the claim that by using wind and solar, we are being green is false.  I would like to share an article the breaks this down in detail, for anyone who is interested:

Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

I want the people of Montana to seriously educate themselves.  Every action has a reaction…no matter what the Environmental extremists preach.  I pray that we will not put hundreds to thousands of good, hard working people out of work because of political agenda.  My hope is that people will learn the art of balance.  How to do what is best for our communities, while trying to be mindful of our environment.  My daughter and I wanted to create some visual images bringing our power portfolio together.  This is my art, my life, my family, my friends, my state, my livelihood.  May God be with us all as things start to change…..and not for the better.



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