The continuation of fossil fuel energy development was in the spotlight at a day-long Montana Energy Summit in Billings organized by Montana Senator Steve Daines.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told the nearly 500 attendees the United States needs an “all of the above” energy policy.
“There is a gap between renewable and reliable energy,” he said. “You cannot power this country and you cannot power the world on solar panels and wind turbines. We need it all.”
The problem is many speakers said coal mining in the U.S. has declined sharply, in part by utilities switching to natural gas or renewable energy.
Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center said comments like Barrasso’s are discouraging. She said states like Iowa and Texas have figured out how to integrate large quantities of wind and solar into their electricity systems.
“For some reason Montana seems to be grasping onto last century and trying to pretend that it’s impossible to do what states across the country are already doing,” she said. “We’re losing out on market share as we speak and these kinds of conversation are really just holding us back.”
There are a number of solar and wind projects across Montana. Mark Klein the co-owner of VK Clean Energy Partners highlighted its 3 projects in Yellowstone County that will export its power out of state. He told the group the company is in Montana because the state is supportive.