Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
Last year at this time, Americans were watching as the price of oil climbed above $120 a barrel. Four dollars a gallon gasoline was causing "pain at the pump," and Americans were pleading with Congress to craft a comprehensive national energy policy that would result in the creation of American jobs, ensure domestic security, and reduce emissions at the lowest cost to the consumer.
Despite these calls to action, a year has passed, and we are no closer to an energy policy that will accomplish these goals. Instead, the U.S. remains nearly 60 percent dependent on foreign oil, and global demand for energy is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next 25 years. If Congress wants to create an energy policy that meets this demand while conforming to the goals the American public has outlined, Congress must act now to construct an energy policy that incentivizes a diverse domestic energy portfolio and reduces regulatory barriers to production.
This policy must encourage energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is often called the fifth fuel because every gallon of gas not consumed and every kilowatt hour not utilized is the equivalent of one produced. In fact, the U.S. can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by an additional 25 to 30 percent or more over the course of the next 20 to 25 years.
Congress should advance policies that reduce emissions through incentivizing renewable and alternative sources of energy such as geothermal, wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. Idaho has significant renewable potential. Take geothermal for example. The Raft River Geothermal Project in southern Idaho is the first geothermal power plant in the Pacific Northwest. Wind mappings show that Idaho is capable of generating approximately 18,000 megawatts of electricity from wind, placing it 13th in the nation for wind energy potential. Idaho has one of the lowest emission standards and electricity rates in the country due to investments in hydropower. Approximately 50 percent of the electricity that powers Idaho comes from hydroelectricity. Furthermore, Idaho is expected to increase its utilization of non-hydroelectric renewable energy to 7 percent by 2015.
Nuclear power is essential to advancing these goals. Nuclear power is the only reliable base load generation that emits no carbon or pollutants. The Energy Information Administration estimates that at least 60 new nuclear plants are needed in the next 25 years to supplant new fossil-fuel generation, but no new plant has been built in the last 30 years. Facilities are expensive to site and build, and current regulations create challenges and extend the permitting process. Congress can advance policies to remove these barriers and create jobs in the nuclear industry. It is estimated that 40,000 manufacturing jobs would be created to support 60 new reactors.
While the U.S. moves towards a more diverse domestic energy portfolio, oil and natural gas remain crucial sources of energy. Policies that restrict and discourage domestic production will force the U.S. to purchase more oil and gas from less stable countries, creating energy insecurity and devaluing the dollar. Instead, increasing domestic production will create jobs. The projected Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resources would equal almost 50 years of imports from OPEC, and newly opened areas in the OCS area have the potential to create 1.2 million jobs annually.
America faces very real, but solvable energy challenges. I am eager to accept the challenge to create a comprehensive national energy policy, and I am confident we can create a diverse domestic energy portfolio through the use of incentives and encouragement that allows American ingenuity to shine.
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