August 10, 2005

FINALLY--A PLAN THAT WORKS

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

FINALLYâ??A PLAN THAT WORKSGuest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike CrapoLast fall, I wrote that the United States needed to find cost-effective ways to access and exploit diverse energy sources while promoting energy conservation by individuals and industry. At that time we were facing exorbitant gasoline prices and climbing natural gas prices. In nine months, the situation has only worsened. And as I noted then, this crisis reveals a growing divide between supply and demand that threatens to become a chasm of failed energy policy. Congress has come to the brink on this topic for a few years now, foundering every year in lost momentum and partisanship. Finally, the months of debate, compromise and problem-solving have paid off. On Monday, August 8, President Bush signed a comprehensive, hard-won energy bill into law. This legislation sets into motion a chain of activities that will start us on the path toward energy independence. The new set of laws affects every aspect of energy from production and consumption to disposal and conservation. Broad-reaching elements of the law include expansion of gas and oil production and the first-ever inventory of offshore oil and gas resources. There are tax incentives for renewable energy as well as incentives for energy efficiency and conservation. Communities across Idaho will gain from tax credits for the production of hydro, geothermal, solar and nuclear power. The new laws encourage homeowners and builders to conserve energy by providing tax credits for energy efficiency in homes, commercial buildings and appliances. Consumers will directly benefit from cost savings gained through tax credits for electricity transmission and reliability. As industry improves its infrastructure for transmission and reliability, the cost savings are passed on to power users. We consumers are encouraged to do our part in contributing to reductions in vehicle emissions as well. The new law contains extensions of tax credits for fuel efficient vehicles and use of renewable fuels. One area of interest to Idaho is clean diesel. The University of Idaho and Idaho Department of Water Resources have been pioneers in the field of clean diesel research for the past 25 years. The new law adds incentives for purchasing biodiesel vehicles and gives an additional credit for small producers of agri-biodiesel. This is a terrific reinforcement of Idahoâ??s higher educational investment in this cutting edge research.Another area of particular interest to Idaho is nuclear power. The new laws provide $2 billion in risk insurance for the nuclear power industry as it builds new-generation reactors. Problems during the construction phase such as delays are costly and create investment risk that many in the private sector are unwilling to accept. With government resources standing behind the projects, these risks are mitigated and reactor construction can go forward. This translates into jobs and research, education and development opportunities for Idahoans. This legislation provides producers with incentives to explore renewable energy resources. As these resources are developed, consumers will have access to less expensive energy and a wider range of energy options. More sustainable homegrown resources means a future of less dependence on the instability of foreign energy sources, particularly oil. As a member of the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Caucus, I am enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by the Energy Bill. From windpower in Hagerman to biodiesel at the University of Idaho to nuclear research and development at the Idaho National Lab and places in between, Idaho has a prominent role to play in our nationâ??s journey toward energy independence. WORD COUNT: 566