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Energy Summit Considers All-of-the-Above Options

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Utah's energy community met Wednesday at Gov. Gary Herbert’s 3rd annual Energy Development Summit to talk about the state's all-of-the-above approach to powering everyday life.

The Republican governor reminded his audience that energy is one of his administration’s top four priorities. He said energy pumps around $5 billion into Utah’s economy each year.

But Herbert said good jobs and a high standard of living have to be balanced with conserving the environment.

“The energy challenges we face here in this country are real -- they are not imaginary,” he said in a lunch-hour speech. “But I believe those challenges can be met, that the unique challenge we face can be overcome because of our ability as a people to adapt and innovate.”

Environmental policy expert Ted Nordhaus said energy development and environmental protection go hand in hand with economic growth. Founder of the Breakthrough Institute, he said environmental regulations aren’t killing coal -- cheap natural gas is.

Nordhaus also highlighted nuclear energy as a key resource for the future, especially in face of global warming.

“The key to cleaning up our air, protecting our landscapes and reducing carbon emissions,” he said in a keynote speech, “is developing and commercializing energy technologies that are better, cheaper and cleaner than the technologies that we have today.”

Nordhaus also said both regulation and government support can foster the sort of innovation that is needed.

Christopher Thomas, executive director of the environmental group HEAL Utah, was disappointed the conference focused so much on fossil fuels.

“It would be really great,” he said, “to involve more diverse voices on the panels.”

Herbert presented energy awards and announced a new energy efficiency plan. The summit attracted more than 1,200 people from 20 states and 4 countries.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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