July 2, 2012

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Article

A Power Trip

From Coal to Windfarms, Utah is Home to Abundant Energy Sources

Amy K. Stewart

July 2, 2012

Utah is a unique place in numerous ways but one aspect that makes the Beehive State especially stand out is its abundant natural resources—old and new.

The State is rich with traditional, renewable and unconventional energy resources. Traditional energy sources include fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, while renewable energy includes solar, wind, geothermal and more. Unconventional energy encompasses oil shale, oil sands and nuclear fuel, such as uranium.

 Utah has an established infrastructure of traditional energy that is low cost and effective. In fact, the State is among the top 10 producers in the nation for coal, oil and gas. Utah is also second lowest in the nation for consumer prices of natural gas, and the State is 3rd lowest for electricity prices.

This solid foundation of energy resources makes further exploration into renewable resources possible. In Utah, we harness all of our varied resources, says Samantha Mary Julian, Director of the Utah Office of Energy Development. “Utah’s coal and natural gas industry keep our power rates really low. The overhead costs are lower for a company doing business in Utah than if they were somewhere else.”

Powering the Economy
Energy, whether it be traditional or alternative, benefits the State’s economy in the form of job creation and tax stimulation.

“Energy jobs are high-paying jobs. They are at 191 percent of the state’s median income,” says Jeff Barrett, Renewable Energy Development Coordinator for the Utah Office of Energy Development.

Traditional energy employs 1.6 percent of the people in Utah, and $1.5 billion is paid in energy wages annually, according to the Governor’s Office of Energy Development.

 “If you heat your home, if you drive your car, if you fly in an airplane—all those things—so much of our business, so much of our economy ­is driven by energy,” says Keith Schmidt, Senior Communications Coordinator with Newfield Exploration and Production, based in The Woodlands, Texas.

Newfield Exploration & Production is involved in exploring and developing hydrocarbon assets—oil and natural gas. Newfield is the largest oil producer in Utah and maintains a large office in the Roosevelt area and an oil field in the Monument/Butte area of the State.

 “That energy is essential to not only the United States but also the world,” Schmidt says. “So hydrocarbon assets are extremely important. They comprise most of the vast percentage of the overall energy used in the world.”

He adds, “A clean-burning hydrocarbon asset such as natural gas is important to our economy and we have a long-term domestic supply of energy with clean burning natural gas in massive shale, with plays in the early stages of development.”

The natural gas business in Utah means “jobs for people, revenues through taxes and royalty payments toward land owners—it means a vibrant local economy,” he says.

Further boosting Utah in the realm of energy, 50 percent of the money generated from coal, oil and gas produced on public lands—those owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management and the State School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration—is returned to the State to be doled out for county rural development. Other coal, oil and gas land leases result in funds for public education, says Susan White, Environmental Manager with the Utah Office of Energy Development. 

“When we can drill on more federal lands, and it’s allowed with more leases and permits to do that, it creates more jobs which creates more dollars for the State of Utah. Tax revenue goes into our schools, toward wages and so many other positive things,” White says. “We can help our country become energy-secure and not have to be dependent on foreign entities to produce it.”

A Balanced Approach
In addition to the State’s rich history with traditional energy development, many in the Beehive State are forging ahead into the innovative new realm of renewable energy.

One example is DwellTek, a Salt Lake City-based home energy solutions company. According to CEO Brad Peacock, the average home in the United States spends more than $2,300 in home energy costs and emits an average of 14,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. “We want to take the new technological innovations and get them into people’s homes,” Peacock says.

Though implementing energy-saving devices, such as solar panels, can be costly and, therefore, a deterrence, many in Utah see the costs as an opportunity to innovate solutions. “[Cost] is one of the challenges we are working to solve,” Peacock says.

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