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Mark Trechock, Dickinson, N.D., Published August 03 2012

More double talk from coal industry

Jerry Grosz’s recent letter to the editor is a prime example of coal industry double-talk. Look at the simple facts.

Is the price of coal more stable than natural gas? Not really. True, the cost of natural gas has gone up and down. But the cost of coal is going up steadily, and will accelerate as easy-to-mine reserves shrink. That’s one reason why power companies are investing in natural gas.

Is coal cleaner than natural gas? No, of course not. At the point of combustion, natural gas produces much lower regulated emissions than coal – especially sulfur dioxide, which is North Dakota coal’s main problem in meeting federal air quality standards.

Is measuring pollution at a handful of scattered air monitors more accurate than computer modeling? Not at all. A monitor measures pollution that happens to blow into it. Modeling considers data like wind speed and direction for a comprehensive view of the effects of pollution over a large area.

Will coal last forever as a source of electricity? Of course not. Neither will natural gas. Both have limited supply.

Investment in new coal is not promising. Limited investment in natural gas for the near term makes better sense. Major long-term investment in renewable energy is the most immediate critical need for utilities.

North Dakota’s ample renewable energy resources place our state in a good position to produce affordable and reliable electricity for generations to come. Let’s get started.


Trechock was staff director, Dakota Resource Council from 1993 to 2012,

and still is a member.