Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 15, 2014

A Republican Scientist Explains Why Coal Is Expensive

My local newspaper is the Daily Herald, in Provo, Utah, and it has always been about as right-wing as a paper with a circulation above 1,000 can get.  After all, Utah County (Provo is the county seat) holds the title as the Reddest County in the Reddest State.  (I recently found out that I live in the Reddest Legislative District of the Reddest County of the Reddest State.)  I had a long-standing e-mail feud going with the previous editors, who would print all sorts of anti-science nonsense about climate change, and even claimed to read the mind of a scientist so they could tell that he really meant the opposite of what he said.  Yes, mind reading.  (See here, here, here, and here for follow-up posts.)

Well, happy day, the editors got fired, and now some non-wack-jobs are in charge.  Oh, it’s still a right-wing paper, as one might surmise by perusing the weekly “Get it Right” column by Pamela Openshaw, who is an elderly lady that really, Really, REALLY loves the Constitution, as it was originally intended to be interpreted by the John Birch Society.  But at least the present editors genuinely try to allow some alternative points of view.  For example, they recently published an op-ed by an alfalfa farmer called “If You Eat, You Care About Climate Change”.  They also published one by my friend Don Jarvis about how Utah needs to adopt the new Tier 3 gasoline standards to make a big, but inexpensive, dent in our air quality problems.  When Pam Openshaw started talking about the Green-Commie Conspiracy, they published an op-ed I wrote in rebuttal called, “Real Conservatives are Conservationists”.   When Pam Openshaw wrote another column of rambling nonsense that I think was supposed to be a response to mine, I asked the new editor (David Kennard) if he would let me do another rebuttal.  He said that he doesn’t usually publish opinion pieces by the same person that often, but he offered me an open slot in their “Opinion Shaper” series, which means I get to do a series of op-eds once per quarter.  It turns out that Don Jarvis is an “Opinion Shaper” writer, as well.

For my first “Opinion Shaper” column, I wrote an article called “Clean Air Should Be Everyone’s Priority” (I don’t pick the headlines, but this one was ok), in which I explained the concept of “external costs”.  The point is that fuels like lower-tier gasoline and coal are only “cheaper” than the alternatives because some of the costs are not paid at the gas pump or in your power bill.  Health costs caused by pollution are paid by everyone, so isn’t it reasonable, fair, and Conservative to demand that people pay the cost if they decide to pollute?

Please share this with your Conservative friends and families.  I want to bring a lot of clicks to the Herald so they will continue letting reasonable people have a voice there.


  1. Barry–interesting commentary. I commend you for writing about fossil fuels and climate change in such a newspaper. I also have to commend the newspaper for publishing your commentary.

  2. Well, coal is a good source of energy in many countries across the planet, but the problem with the coal is the level of carbon emissions produced during burning.
    If the European countries use less coal and more renewables, countries like Australia will rely on coal for many decades ahead.

    • Way to blame others for what they might do to excuse yourself from doing what you should.

    • Also, do you have any idea what the population of Australia is? Not that big.

  3. Hi Barry – great article, just tweeted it – I’m happy to share opinions by conservatives who actually want to conserve clean air, water, and a stable climate! Have you checked into Citizens’ Climate Lobby – their carbon fee and dividend policy is in many ways a very conservative response to our need to reduce carbon emissions. Cap and trade is CCL’s second-favourite pricing policy. I know there are some active CCL chapters in Utah, and there’s also a CCL Republican caucus. Here’s a link, fyi.
    Thanks for all you do!

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