Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Kudos to NV Energy for helping our health

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If you have your health, you have everything.

I can’t recall how long I’ve heard that from others, but I know how long I’ve been sharing that sentiment with young people — and that’s ever since I reached an age when things start to go wrong and people start to show signs of wear and tear.

I suppose it’s the recognition of that part of the human condition that leads to the separation of the generations when it comes to matters of governmental policy and our health.

Simply put, the older we get, the more conscious we are of our health and the more appreciative we are of the technologies and medical advances that provide us a shot at quality longevity.

I mention this because I have reached that age where these issues begin to matter at a personal level. But, in larger part, I have reached an age of understanding that allows me to appreciate what is most important in life: the health and happiness of our loved ones.

Click to enlarge photo

Hank Greenspun

My father, Las Vegas Sun founder Hank Greenspun, was way ahead of his time when it came to matters of health — actually he was way ahead of his time on most things. I can’t remember one theory he advanced regarding what we should eat or why we should eat it or how and when we should exercise that was not proven years later to be spot on.

I was thinking what my dad would say about the news that NV Energy was going to close all of its coal-fired power plants in Nevada over the next decade or so and replace them with a mix of natural gas-fired plants and renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal.

The announcement was met by a criticism that centered around the cost to ratepayers of converting, changing and building plants.

My father was never a champion of the folks who owned the power, gas or water companies, but he accepted the fact that they had to exist for an orderly society to grow and prosper and for a citizenry to be assured access to the basic necessities of life.

Proper government oversight of these near-monopolies was also a necessity for him, although he always worried about the cozy relationship between the regulators and the regulated. He considered it part of his job to ensure the ratepayers always got a fair shake.

With NV Energy’s announcement came the inevitable stories about how much more it would cost consumers to have an energy company powered by tomorrow’s cleaner and more environmentally conscious power sources rather than by yesterday’s air-polluting, lung-poisoning and life-shortening coal plants.

And that is where I know my father would speak up: By coming down on those who could only see the money side of the argument, an argument that was a loser from the get-go because the real financial cost to society would come from doing nothing — or far less than what NV Energy has committed to do.

I am invoking Hank’s environmental position because I know it was consistent and unassailable. He championed the little guy, the average citizen, against the well-heeled and politically influential power companies that seemed to forever force their will on a government constantly overwhelmed and understaffed.

But even he, given NV Energy’s decision, would praise them for the good they plan to do. For sure, the energy providers could do more to advance the cause of clean air and fighting climate change. But what they have announced is considerable and consistent with a company that sees its future and Nevada’s as inextricably entwined by energy policies that enhance healthy living and advance the cause of environmental sanity.

I also will invoke the words of John J. Arbuckle, who, at least in older TV commercials, would contend that “you get what you pay for.” By that he meant if you want the best, you have to be willing to pay for it.

In this case, if we want a future that is less dependent on untold quantities of air- and lung-polluting coal, and more dependent on cleaner-burning gas and environmentally friendly solar and wind sources, then we have to be willing to pay for it.

Any actuary worth his salt can prove that whatever we spend today that keeps us healthier will save us financially tomorrow in terms of doctor visits, hospital stays and the pain and suffering that we bring down on ourselves if we insist that cheaper must mean better.

I, for one, channeling the words of the Sun’s founding publisher, want to thank NV Energy for acting in its own best interest. You heard me — this is good business for the energy company, but it is also good business for the people of Nevada.

The few extra dollars a year that this may cost us as ratepayers will be drops in the bucket when you consider how much healthier our state and its people will be.

And who knows, this kind of move could vault us to the top of the list of the 50 states when it comes to environmental friendliness. Maybe for once we will know what it is like to lead in something good rather than follow in all that is bad.

Remember, there will come a time when everyone understands that when you have your health, you will have everything. Cleaning up Nevada’s air will advance the cause of good health.

Then we will have everything.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. Mr. Greenspun is correct for kudos to his father Hank for casting a weary eye on utilities as near monopolies in bed with regulators to advance their business agendas. But, I stop short of saying kudos for Nevada Energy for abandoning coal power in favor of environmentally friendly alternatives. Unless and until Nevada Energy confirms that it does not receive state, local and Federal dollars to close down coal powered plants, I'm suspect. The Federal Government, [read President Obama and the Energy and Environmental Protection Agencies] have pushed a green power agenda and waged war against coal power plants. How? By granting huge tax credits and taxpayer subsidies to kill off coal power plants. If this is the reason for NV Energy's actions, and I'm not convinced money subsidies and politics are not, then no kudos are deserved regardless of the positive environmental outcomes. It's business as usual at the expense of the consumers who have to pay more.

    Carmine D

  2. Has anyone else ever noticed that Michael Yackira looks almost exactly like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons?

  3. "Only a typical Republican, such as Carmine, would find fault in this."

    And only a liberal Democrat like you would say so.

    Carmine D

  4. If the primary purpose of shifting energy production from coal is to reduce so-called global warming effects, then perhaps more immediate attention should be placed upon modern nuclear power, in addition to increasesd implementation of solar and wind generated power. The technologies of solar and wind do not come without trade-offs of their own (space required and noise being two). Further, the technologies alone cannot generate enough reliable energy to replace combustion-generated energy. Nuclear power can be implemented quickly with a wider capability of generating far greater kWh per acre than wind and solar combined. Still, at some point, someone is going to have to address the elephant in the room: global population versus water resources. Everythng hinges upon it, and 8 billion is simply too many; soon enough, 12 billion will be living in 3rd world conditions, and power generation will not be the top of our worries.

  5. I wonder how much stock Brian Greenspun owns in NV Energy?

    It is easy to think in terms of "ratepayers" as one big lump of households. However, there is a big variable as to what the individual ratepayers or economic groups can afford to pay.

    With increasing inequality between earnings, those who own newspapers are at an advantage of not having to worry about costs of energy. While other groups don't have that comfort zone.

    NV Energy is a monopoly that gets its way through getting the legislature to make laws in its favor and not in the public interest. It is about profits and avoiding regulatory issues, not doing good for the consumer.

    I would love to read what Hank would say if he had knowledge of all the current issues around what NV Energy is doing and their strategies, not just the a couple of issues. I bet he would still be against monopolies.

  6. Bradley, you are incorrect in your assumptions of my statement.

    I wondered what Hank would say given today's circumstances.

    I truly have no love loss for NV Energy's business strategy, so I disagree with Brian Greenspun's opinion. I am even wondering why he has such an opinion. It seems so far away from the NV Energy history.

    I am also no fan of monopolies. However, I understand that this is one area we will have to agree to disagree about.

  7. Personally I believe solar and wind farms are a boondoggle. I believe that they work better on homes and businesses roofs. NV Energy would be better off offering rebates to homeowners who get solar put in their homes. Look at all that roof space not being used.

    Also as a lifelong Las Vegan even as a kid I never understood why solar water heaters weren't put in every home. All together it'd be a nice little energy savings.