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Charting Utah's energy future

Conservation, planning for future demand, deploying multiple sources and protecting the environment are all important aspects of a credible state energy policy. Credit Gov. Mike Leavitt for crafting such a plan, which is designed to meet the state's needs for more than a decade into the future.

Although Utah has been under considerable pressure recently from out-of-state concerns to construct coal-fired power plants to ship electricity out of state, Leavitt, in announcing his new policy, made it abundantly clear that Utah's needs will come first. In his words, "Utah has the will to do what is necessary to ensure consumers have reliable power at reasonable prices."

If Utah will assume the environmental concerns associated with traditional energy development, it only follows it should reap the rewards, then offer any surplus power for sale at a premium.

But Leavitt, guided by his Energy Supply Working Group, also emphasized the importance of conservation. The days of cheap power are behind us, and Utahns must devote considerable attention to conserving electrical power and natural gas. Not only do these measures save money, they have important environmental considerations.

Although Utah's primary energy sources — electricity produced by coal-fired power plants and natural gas — will remain mainstays for the foreseeable future, considerable effort needs to be expended in diversifying Utah's energy resources.

While costs may prohibit large-scale conversions to wind or solar power, there need to be incentives for businesses and homeowners to seek alternative means to heat and light their work and living spaces, as well as rewarding other conservation efforts.

As the governor and his advisors have determined, meeting future energy needs will require boosting production as well as curbing use whenever possible. As such, the governor plans to merge the Office of Energy Services and the Office of Energy and Resource Planning to help get Utahns to conserve and use energy more efficiently.

California's rolling blackouts illustrate the woeful lack of planning throughout the western United States in respect to development of energy resources. That obviously must change, but respective states must ensure that economic, environmental and regulatory policies do not stand in the way.

While Utah may commit itself to strategic energy development and conservation, there must be a like effort from other states in the region. California must, on the long term, contribute more than cash to build power plants in Utah. The Golden State must also begin to develop more of its own power sources and make greater strides in conservation.

Leavitt appears to be taking a pragmatic approach with this new energy policy. This page applauds his foresight and encourages further efforts in this arena.