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Finding common ground for Montana’s climate solutions plan
Guest column

Finding common ground for Montana’s climate solutions plan

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With release of the governor’s Climate Solutions Council’s final plan, here’s a bold growth strategy to build the healthiest, safest, lowest-cost, most reliable and abundant energy supply for Montana. It offers common ground between the major parties' national platforms. It asks our Republican leaders to join Republican senators, including Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), in declaring climate change a real and immediate, rather than a long-term threat.

It asks Democrats to forgo a centralized approach and embrace market-based decentralized planning that incentivizes innovation. It actualizes Republicans’ all-of-the-above energy independence and innovation exceptionalism. It calls for expanding innovative nuclear power, which both platforms embrace.

• By 2025, implement a nation-wide Canadian-style refunded carbon tax, like Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) with individual states controlling dividend use. EICDA becomes a primary financial-stimulus to fund restructuring and produce incentives to decarbonize personal economies. With revenues peaking nationwide in 2035 at $400 billion per year, other tax increases are avoided while massive amounts of private capital, sidelined by the coronavirus recession, are attracted to rebuild our energy economy. Since lower income households would receive more in dividends than they pay in added tax, the key objection of Republicans to a carbon tax is addressed.

• By 2035, get the electric power sector to 80% carbon-free by meeting baseloads with existing hydropower and add lower-cost combined cycle gas/hydrogen turbines to replace coal generation. Maximize Montana’s unrealized 678,000 megawatts (MW) of lower-cost wind to minimize gas turbines. Use excess wind electricity for extensive pumped hydro-storage. Tailor capacity to export markets.

• By 2035, develop major job-producing forest and agriculture sequestration programs to off-set the greenhouse emissions from gas generation.

• By 2050, replace all fossil fueled space-heating, industrial uses and transportation with electricity; going from 1,600 MW of capacity now to 5,000 MW for in-state use. Montana exports the output from the other 1,600 MW of current capacity. (Your next car or light truck will be electric.)

• By 2050, reach carbon-free in electricity by burning hydrogen from the electrolysis of Berkeley Pit water in the combined cycle gas/hydrogen turbines and by replacing all remaining fossil fueled electricity with NuScale Small Modular Reactors, scheduled for commercial application in Idaho in 2026. Get nuclear approved by vote of Montana citizens based on success of the Idaho application by 2030.

• By 2070, replace conventional nuclear-fission reactors with PRISM breeder technology that consumes stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel and eliminates the need to mine any more uranium. Further expand renewables including scaled solar with battery storage and renewably-sourced hydrogen. And with Montana’s extensive forests and grass lands, we become a major carbon sink.

John Noreika Sr. of Belgrade is a former coal engineer and retired from a career in economic development.

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