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By Senator Mike Crapo

As Idaho digs out of an historic winter and gas prices approach record levels, energy is our minds. Our energy demands must be met with a firm, long-term commitment to research and development, conservation and promoting alternative technologies through tax incentives. At the same time, it's critical that we don't walk away from our nation's well-developed, traditional energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal-based electricity. If we decrease domestic conventional energy production or increase taxes on the same, we risk making the country more dependent on foreign energy supplies and increasing costs for consumer electric bills and at the pump.


As a member of the Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, I strongly support efforts to develop home-grown alternative fuel options for our nation. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created incentives toaccelerate U.S. development of clean and renewable domestic energy resourcesincluding solar, wind and geothermal.  The law also helped jumpstart the renaissance of nuclear power in the U.S. by securing tax credits to expand nuclear power production, reauthorizing Price-Anderson indemnity insurance and authorizing the construction of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant at the Idaho National Lab (INL). More recently, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 increased automobile fuel efficiency, expanded use of biofuels and increased building and appliance energy efficiency standards. 


Incidentally, INL remains the Department of Energy's lead lab for nuclear research, with many cutting-edge initiatives to advance energy security for our country. One such project, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), an education and research facility, is scheduled to open in Idaho Falls this summer. CAES will address scientific, technical and policy challenges associated with energy demand growth, national energy security and global climate protection.  And INL continues to set the standard in nuclear technology and power as the U.S. sees a resurgence of interest and investment in nuclear power. The recent rise in filing for licenses for plants indicates a willingness on the part of investors to seriously evaluate investment in new nuclear facilities.


The best way for the federal government to promote energy security and seek out viable renewable energy solutions while preserving market integrity is to provide tax incentives that give business and industry the freedom to make creative, cost-effective long-term investments. This is proving successful: in February, a leading international market analysis group reported that global investments in solar, wind and other clean energy technologies were up 60 percent from 2006. According to the report, key factors in this substantial increase were government policies around the world that promoted renewable power and cleaner fuels. Clearly, such policies work exceedingly well. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I've supported and helped craft successful legislation to provide tax credits for production and investment in renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.  Congress must work to achieve these with the current energy tax bill under discussion.


As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I support expanded usage of renewable biofuels, such as grain ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel. My "Biodiesel Education and Expansion Act of 2007" encourages biodiesel use and creates greater markets for biodiesel crop production.


According to the U.S. Energy Department, Idahoans leave the smallest carbon footprint in the nation. Changing our energy portfolio and becoming more self-reliant doesn't happen overnight; the outlook for fuel and gas prices looks less than rosy. Nevertheless, Idaho remains on the vanguard of alternative, renewable energy and will help lead our nation into a future of sustainable, affordable and secure energy development and production.