Brewer: Keep our coal plants burning | Columnists

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Coal-fired power plants are very important to Nebraska. Coal power is the engine of our economy in Nebraska, fueling industry and creating well-paying jobs in our state. During extreme weather conditions, coal literally saved lives. Time and again, coal-fired power plants have kept the lights on when other forms of energy could not. I am very concerned about the plans of public power organizations to “decarbonize” our power generation in Nebraska. We simply cannot ignore the fact that Nebraskanians will continue to depend on coal. Wind and solar energy cannot replace coal.

The cost of electricity is strongly influenced by the cost of fuel. Coal is a low-cost fuel that produces low-cost electricity, which acts as a stimulus to the economy, providing more disposable income for consumers and creating a competitive advantage for US manufacturers. The average electricity price in the United States is a fraction of what it is elsewhere in the world. We are very lucky to have affordable electricity and we need to protect the power plants that provide it.

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LB 1058 is a bill I introduced to help incentivize our public electric organizations to keep our base-load (coal-fired) power plants running. Nebraska Public Energy is required by law to provide reliable and affordable electricity to the people of Nebraska. Coal passes this reliability test with flying colors. It is abundant. It is widely available. It is a stable and secure source of supply. It is inexpensive and stable. It is versatile. Coal is reliable energy.

The towns of North Platte and Alliance are railroad towns. Imagine what would happen to these communities if the coal trains serving coal-fired power plants in Nebraska stopped running. Blanketing the state with wind turbines and solar panels would not come close to replacing the economic impact that would be lost in western Nebraska.

LB 788 is my bill to ensure funding is available in the Rural Projects Act to help expand industrial access to rail service in western Nebraska. The law was created last year and quickly ran out of money as communities applied for grants. LB 788 will supplement this fund with $50 million that is needed for grant applications to build new and expanded railroad fleets in our railroad communities. I hope that the Appropriations Committee will share my point of view on this important bill. The budget debate will begin in the Legislative Assembly in a few days.

Contact Senator Tom Brewer: [email protected], 402-471-2628.

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