There may be Gold in That Dirt

Senior Editor

ROD WALTON

Sometimes I’ve been known to make mountains out of molehills; just ask my wife and kids. They remind me to consider the lilies of the fields and all that. Sometimes I just want to build that mountain to make sure I know how much the dirt costs me. You can call me a pessimist or an optimist, but I think I’m both. I believe that extra dirt can either trigger a landslide or grow a garden. Both have purposes.

There’s a lot of dirt slinging around in the aftermath of this presidential election and inauguration. One side trumpeted the supposed return of an America-First mentality and end of regulatory fiat, while others lamented the loss of progressive objectives everywhere.

The energy utility industry was no different in its dual reaction. There was celebration, weeping and gnashing of teeth, whatever that means. If asked my opinion, I’d quote Tim Blake Nelson’s character from “O Brother Where Art Thou” when his Delmar is confronted by a strong difference of opinion between Pete and Ulysses. “I’m with you fellas,” Delmar replied in splitting the difference. That’s diplomacy, friends.

The energy utility currently may have a conflict on impacts from the fledgling Trump Administration. And frankly, I’m with both of you folks. It’s entirely possible that by the end of all of this the Clean Power Plan will be no more, regulations could be cut back 75 percent and clean energy incentives a thing of the past like pop bottle deposits.

I don’t believe all of that to be true, but what if it is? Utility CEOS already are moving companies forward with their own renewable and carbon-reduction initiatives, partially because the government tells them to but also it’s making more and more economic sense. Carbon has a cost, and it seems economically wise to cut that cost where possible.

Personally, I’m an all-of-the-above kind of guy, as you may have guessed. I don’t believe coal is going away-at least not for the next hundred years-and yet we cannot ignore these giant leaps in renewable potential. I’m talking about demand response and energy efficiency as well as distributed generation from solar and wind.

I look at these efforts kind of like we used to look at the Apollo missions. The initial goal was to get to the moon, but in the meantime our mission yielded such independent marvels as CAT scanners, microchips and the joystick.

You think I’m joking about that last one, but I’m not. My point is that we can take this seemingly chaotic moment and figure the best way forward using a little chaos to our benefit. Doesn’t a mountain present more opportunities than a molehill anyway?

 

 

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