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Clean energy advances without government intervention were on display this past week on Colorado’s Western Slope.
Club 20 held its ninth annual Energy Forum and Expo in Grand Junction on Friday, February 28. The annual Energy Expo serves as a showcase for international, national, and state energy-related interests to tout new innovations and network with local governments and with each other. Several speakers, energy experts, and around 40 companies were present for the event, which was free to the nearly 5,000 people who visited during the course of the day.
Club 20, an organization comprised of civic and business leaders from the 20 western-most counties in Colorado, hosts several informational events each year. The organization is quite well-known on the Western Slope for its political debates which are usually held in September of election years.
Energy development, especially in Western Colorado, frequently generates controversy among certain environmentalist groups. But as evidenced at the Expo, private industry is doing a stellar job of policing itself by creating new methods of environmentally-friendly extraction, production, and delivery of all forms of energy, including solar and wind power.
Safety and compliance companies — devoted almost exclusively to training their clients’ personnel in workplace safety, and helping them successfully comply with government mandates and regulations — are exploding in number. The Grand Junction-based Safety, Inc., a specialized firm, shows how a private sector company can provide a buffer between the energy industry and governmental regulatory agencies by offering specific training as well as expertise in compliance.
Environmental lobbyists, who were conspicuously absent as a group at the Club 20 Energy Expo, would find themselves less and less relevant as private sector companies address environmental impact and sustainability through their own research and innovation.
The Club 20 Energy Expo provided several key instances of remarkable regional productivity and innovation. For example, coal extracted in Utah and Colorado has some of the highest caloric value in the world (more energy output per ton). Also of note:
- Biomass gasification projects in Colorado are clearing large forest areas of beetle-killed trees, chipping them, and turning the chips into a biofuel similar to Natural Gas; creating clean fuel while clearing Colorado forests of dry, fire-prone tinder. The gasification process yields 96 percent usable gas and about 4 percent “biochar,” which can be used in fertilizer as well as other applications.
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is safer for long-term transport than many other fossil fuels. LNG will not combust when a flame is introduced because of its very low temperature.
- The fuel economy will evolve within the next 10 to 20 years as methane capture technology is implemented. Methane can be captured from landfills, livestock operations, coal mines, and waste water treatment plants. Concentrated methane is akin to natural gas in composition and efficiency.
- The Eastern Plains of Colorado have been identified as having great potential for wind energy projects, to complement the continued development of fossil fuel sources.
Energy companies often have an undeserved reputation for placing environmental concerns after capital interests. The Club 20 Energy Expo revealed that the opposite is true. Exciting new inventions and processes are coming from the research and development paid for by companies such as Halliburton, Encana, and Williams. These innovations help the industry strike a necessary balance between profit and conscientious production and extraction.
The world remains dependent upon fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. Fossil fuels can be extracted safely and with marginal impact to the environment in the form of air and ground water pollution. Such things as clean coal and safe, clean fracking methods are not myths. They exist not because of government mandates, but because of the brainpower in private sector energy companies seeking to expand, hire more people, and make energy more affordable, while preserving and improving the physical environment.
Tags: Club 20, Compliance industry, Energy Forum and Expo, Grand Junction, Private Sector
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