Dale Eatinger: Put resources to their best uses
April 29, 2006
On the Sunday after New Year’s Day in 2005, I left my family in Manhattan, Kan., to come to Hayden. The following day, I began working for First National Bank of the Rockies. The bank provides a work setting that I really like. One reason that I enjoy Hayden is that my upbringing gives me much common ground with some of the families with deep roots here.
I was raised on one of the oldest ranches in Nebraska, which is still operated by my family. In my office, I have some old pictures from the ranch and of my great-great grandfather, the founder of my family’s ranch in 1878, and of some of his family. Colorado’s cattle business history, started by Jim Bridger in the Browns Park area, pre-dates our ranch by a few years.
The cattle business, for the most part, has not been dependent on public subsidy for its prosperity, or lack thereof, over the years. Tax policy preferences, the Homestead Act and controls related to grazing on public lands, which Ferry Carpenter played a large role in, are the only significant federal government policies that I can think of that have affected cattle ranching in this region.
My experience in Northwest Colorado has introduced me to the enormous coal resources that are in this area. I am now aware of some of the mining history that is also an important part of local history. As a participant in Leadership Steamboat during the past several months, I have had the opportunity to tour the Twentymile Coal Mine and the Hayden Station power plant. Both are important parts of the Yampa Valley economy.
On Friday, while attending a seminar on rural issues in Steamboat Springs, we were addressed by Sen. Ken Salazar. Some of his presentation noted the increased production of ethanol across the country and particularly in Colorado, where several new plants are being built. I think we are setting the investors in these plants and the communities they are in up for failure.
My education and much of my work background is in accounting, and I think that government subsidy, not economic viability, is the reason ethanol is being produced. Sen. Salazar and many of his colleagues may want to increase the economic activity in the heavily subsidized grain-producing regions of our country, but how long can public monies prop up an industry that is barely positive from a net energy production standpoint?
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As an accountant and banker, I have evaluated cash flows of many businesses. I do not understand why we are not exploiting our tremendous coal resources to produce liquid fuel to propel our vehicles. I realize that coal is not a renewable fuel, but even if we can use it for a hundred years or so to prevent enrichment of foreign entities, that do not have our best interests in mind, we will be better off.
If we were to use methanol fuel, it would give us time to develop other technologies while using domestic resources. Reduction in importation of energy resources would have dramatic effects. Removal of energy as a bargaining tool against us should help our world standing. Reduction in energy imports should have a huge positive impact on our trade imbalance. Conversion of coal to methanol on a large scale for use in M85 and other fuels would increase the economic activity in all coal producing regions. Finally, widespread use of alcohol-based fuel should improve air quality.
I am selfish for the economy of Northwest Colorado in making the claims outlined above. However, I think these arguments are for the public good.