Tom Power

Montana coal boosters, including the coal companies themselves, have been warning Montanans that if they do not embrace unlimited coal exports to Asia, Montana will lose thousands of coal mining jobs while gaining nothing in the form of environmental protection.

Green-Washing Coal Mining And Coal Exports

Aug 27, 2014

The Oregon Department of State Lands recently denied a permit to Ambre Energy for its proposed coal shipping port on the Columbia River at Boardman. That proposed Morrow Pacific coal port is the smallest of the three coal ports still under consideration in the Pacific Northwest to move Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asian markets.

Word-Play As A Solution To Western Wildfires

Aug 15, 2014

The 2014 Western wildfire season got an early start with large fires in Washington and Oregon that left those living in Western Montana gagging on the resulting smoke that seemed to be continuously recycled through our valleys. As the summer progresses, we all have our fingers crossed that our own home-grown wildfires will not re-create the “nuclear winter” of thick smoke blocking out the sun at mid-day that we have had to live through in summers past.

Dealing with a “Speculative and Uncertain” Future

When Planning Electric Supply Acquisitions

Coping with a New Cold War in Central Europe: Ukraine and Russia

          Our aging old and bellicose new young cold warriors are rattling their rhetorical sabers and urging that the American military machine rattle loudly some real military equipment to chase the Russians out of Ukraine and end the Russian intimidation of the Ukrainian people.

New Efforts to Fire Proof Our Forests:  The Initiative Built into the 2014 Farm Bill[1]

Confusing Politics and Economics in Electric Supply Decisions

The Flight from Coal in U.S. Electricity Production

 

          In the late 1990s as the Montana Power Company exited the electric utility industry and headed for bankruptcy as a telecommunication company, Montana Power sold off all of its Montana electric generating facilities to Pennsylvania Power and Light. The utility that bought Montana Power’s electric and natural gas delivery system of pipes and wires, NorthWestern Energy, is now trying to buy back those Montana hydroelectric facilities.

Buying Back the Dams: An Important Billion Dollar Decision for Montana

 

          When NorthWestern Energy announced last year that it had entered into an agreement to buy back the hydroelectric facilities that the Montana Power Company once owned, most Montana’s probably smiled a little , thinking that a serious public policy mistake of the 1990s was about to be corrected.

Valuing the Montana Colstrip Electric Generators: A Strange New World

 

NorthWestern Energy is proposing to purchase the Montana hydroelectric generators originally owned by the Montana Power Company. Montana Power sold them off in the late 1990s as it pursued a speculative dream of becoming a national telecommunication company. Instead Montana Power went bankrupt and ceased to exist.

U.S. State Department Greenlight for the Keystone Pipeline?

          The U.S. State Department, which has to approve pipelines crossing into the United States from other countries, recently released its updated study of the environmental impacts associated with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  That pipeline would carry Alberta tar sands bitumen to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast. President Obama had previously indicated that he would approve the 1,700 mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions.

The Oil Companies’ Self-Serving Fatalism on Petroleum Use

Creating and Destroying “Good Jobs”

Dec 31, 2013

Creating and Destroying “Good Jobs”

From Violence to Non-Violence:

Putting Nelson Mandela’s Contribution into a Broader Context

Scaring the Political Wits Out of Us: How Important Is the Federal Deficit?

          If the Obama Administration cannot get the incompetent, stumbling rollout of the Affordable Care Act fixed in the next month or so, we will soon face another game of “economic chicken” between Tea Party Republicans and President Obama. 

Is the Bakken Oil Boom an Example of the Economic Development We Are After?

 The Montana Chamber of Commerce recently attacked EPA’s regulation of the emissions from coal-fired electric generators. That regulation, the Chamber argued, would have catastrophic consequences for both controlling carbon emissions and for the Montana and American economies.

          Some economic fantasies never seem to recede, even in the face of economic reality. One of these is the belief that if only more and more federal land were opened to oil and gas drilling, local and state economies would enter a period of permanent prosperity. That source of extensive economic prosperity, we are told, is just beneath our feet. All we have to do is drill. But, we are told, the federal government’s environmental regulations and bureaucratic incompetence block this drilling and keep  us unnecessarily poor.

Why the Federal Government Wants to Get into Rating Colleges

     Young people graduating from high school face a conundrum: Going to college has gotten more and more expensive while the economic payoff from having a college degree has increased in value. College tuition and fees have continued to grow much faster than most other costs in the economy. At the same time, state legislatures have become increasingly reluctant to subsidize college operations.

Teaching and learning are under multiple pressures to make heavier use of the Internet’s vast capability to provide access to information and almost instantaneous communication to and from the most remote of locations.

The drama and distress of wildfire season is upon us again: Fires sweeping towards homes, families hurriedly evacuating their homes; the constant buzz of fire retardant bombers, water-carrying helicopters, and spotter planes; and exhausted fire-fighters struggling up hill to try to contain a fire while other firefighters stand guard at our homes.

            This drama and distress always raises the question of whether there is something we could have done or should be doing that would better protect us against wildfires.

Both the proponents and opponents of the Keystone Pipeline were encouraged by President Obama’s recent statement that he would approve that pipeline as long as it did not “exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions.

The Right to Bear Arms Against the Government

Jun 4, 2013

One of the interesting under-currents in the great American gun debate goes well beyond the right to self-defense against attacks on our person, family, or home. Instead it focuses on the need for the population to be significantly armed so that it can effectively rebel against a government that has become authoritarian and threatens our basic democratic rights and liberties.

Government and the Decline in Violence

May 24, 2013

One source of the split among Americans on the issue of gun control has its roots in fundamentally different judgments about the legitimacy, trustworthiness, and reliability of government.