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Energy Column: Renewables: A square peg in a round hole

By Greg Kozera                                                                  

I must admit I’m confused. I have read several articles recently in the Charleston Gazette-Mail

Greg Kozera
Greg Kozera

saying that we don’t want this gas boom and that renewables are our future for energy and creating jobs. I have to strongly disagree. It is time for a little West Virginia common sense. If you looked out of your window during our recent snow storms and cold weather you could easily see that the sun wasn’t shining and the wind didn’t blow enough to heat my house. Thank God for coal and natural gas that produces our electricity. I was toasty warm and could use my stove, microwave, computer, and watch television. The only renewable I could count on was the wood in my fireplace.

On a recent trip from Pittsburgh to Richmond, Va., we passed a large wind farm near the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was cloudy and 15 degrees at midday. Not a single blade was turning. If we were depending on electricity from wind and solar like they proposed in those articles our homes would be cold and dark. This is dangerous for children and older people in particular. The hard cold truth from an engineer is that wind and solar can never replace coal and natural gas no matter what the politicians or the people at the Climate Change Conference in Paris say. They are important fuels in our energy mix but they are supplemental fuels.

Renewables may create a few jobs during installation and during operations but nothing like natural gas and coal jobs. Just to stimulate or frack one well requires over 100 people. If we want to create jobs in West Virginia from renewables then we should promote our abundant supply of natural gas and manufacture the solar panels and windmills here rather than in China.

I have been listening to the evils of natural gas drilling and fracking by the antis for the last seven years. I have three wells I can see from my house. The deer graze next to them. I have seen the reclamation and roads that are far better now than before drilling. We hear about earthquakes which our planet has always had. The antis don’t talk about the earthquakes in New England or Germany where we don’t drill and frack. I’m tired of the lies and half- truths.

Based on current supply natural gas prices and gasoline prices won’t be increasing much any time soon. This is a challenge for the natural gas industry but is good news for consumers. Low gasoline prices are the first major raise most Americans have had in years. This is real money in people’s pockets and the government doesn’t get a cut. The antis apparently don’t like this.

I have talked to engineers at the well sites. We know that the Marcellus is the second largest natural gas field in the world. These same well site engineers tell me that Utica wells are 5-10 times more productive than Marcellus wells. We have massive amounts of natural gas. Our supply will last over 100 years based on today’s technology. Thanks to expanded use of natural gas CO2 levels in the USA peaked in 2007 and are down 11.5 percent since then. World CO2 levels are UP 15 percent in the same period. If CO2 really is a problem, natural gas is the answer.

I have been to Florida and the Bahamas. The sun shines almost every day and the wind blows every day. I didn’t see a single windmill and solar panels only powered small lights in the harbor and the little red LED lights around STOP signs. If renewables don’t work there why do we think they should work here?

The next big boom in West Virginia is pipeline construction that will provide construction jobs and give West Virginia producers access to US and global markets providing jobs here and a cleaner planet. With a little work we can bring more manufacturing and jobs back to West Virginia thanks to our clean, affordable, dependable, abundant West Virginia Energy. We can’t allow junk science, half- truths and fear to keep our state from moving forward and our people from prosperity.

Thoughts to ponder.

Greg Kozera of Elkview is a father and grandfather with 40 years of experience in the energy industry and is an expert in leadership. He has a Masters in Environmental Engineering from Marshall. Greg is a high school coach, professional engineer, leadership speaker and coach as well as being author of four books and numerous published articles. He can be reached at  

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