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Advocates, Leaders Disagree on "Clean" Energy

Utah Clean Energy
Everyone seems to be talking about clean energy, but environmental and health advocates contend state and industry officials aren't doning enough.

The energy industry has been in Utah’s capital city this week to talk about trends, and one word kept popping up everywhere: clean.

Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute told reporters: “We’re leading the world to improve the cleanliness and energy consumption.”

The Tesoro Corp.’s Greg Goff said a company mission was that “We create a cleaner and safer future.”

And Gov. Gary Herbert said part of the state’s broad energy strategy is “to make sure we have energy sustainability that is, in fact, affordable and cleaner.”

Like so many people at the 4th annual Energy Summit, they linked the term “clean” to energy along with the usual industry buzzwords: affordable, abundant and accessible.

Fossil fuels account for all but a small fraction of the energy produced in Utah. But Herbert and industry leaders are saying now they’re committed to finding ways to reduce the environmental impacts of fossil fuels and increase low-pollution energy sources.

“Governor Herbert and I both agree,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), “that states are the laboratories of innovation and ideas and that we are trying to come up with – and supporting industry in coming up with -- cleaner ways of extracting all of our energy forms.”

Outside the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, green advocatescomplained that fossil-fuel pollution super-charges the climate, fouls the air and wrecks Utah’s wildlife habitat.

Ingrid Griffee, executive director for Utah Moms for Clean Air, said leaders muddle the issue by saying controlling pollution means less education funding.

“I want to be very, very clear here,” she told reporters at a news conference. “No mother in 21st Century Utah should have to choose between education and clean air.”

Griffee said Utah energy companies get a sweetheart deal to extract oil and gas in Utah. The environmentalists also pointed out that Utah lags behind all other Western states when it comes to renewable energy.

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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