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Don’t abandon coal after Elk River

Editor's note: The op-ed was written by William F. Shughart, J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State University. In addition to running in the Deseret News it was also picked up by several other newspapers across the country, including the Arizona Daily Star, the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Gainesville Times in Georgia, and the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota.


By William F. Shughart II

Coal mining is dangerous. So, too, is the chemical process for cleaning coal, as revealed by the leakage of contaminants into the Elk River from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries. That spill caused about 300,000 people living in or near Charleston, West Virginia, to lose access to potable tap water for weeks and Freedom Industries to file for bankruptcy protection to stave off, at least temporarily, lawsuits seeking compensation for damages.

In the meantime, the United States seemingly is moving toward reliance on a single fuel for electricity generation: natural gas. For now, that energy source is cheap and abundant in most parts of the country, tempting some to think that America's electric-power grid can be converted entirely from coal to gas.

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