Power struggle

The numbers behind the energy rhetoric


"Everything is about creating jobs." So said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in her keynote address to the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 4. She was talking about the enormous economic potential of "green" industries like wind power and energy efficiency. But her words could just as easily have spouted from the lips of a coal executive, defending his company against the specter of climate change legislation.

The war over energy generation and conservation is often framed in terms of jobs and economics. So how do different electricity sources shake out in raw numbers? High Country News took a look at 500 megawatts each of hypothetical new wind and coal power generation -- each requiring approximately $1 billion worth of investment -- in Montana, a state currently aggressively seeking to develop and export both resources. We also looked at a comparable investment in energy efficiency. (The numbers provided here are for electrical generation only and don't include manufacturing or mining.)

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