What I 'm struck by every spring is the sense of renewal, that our air, land, water, animals and plants will sustain us for another year.
That 's why we need to think about renewable energy. America needs a new energy future that ends our addiction to foreign oil and strengthens our reliance on homegrown renewable energy we can create in Montana and America.
Skyrocketing energy costs, global warming, a war in the Middle East, and the decline of rural America show that our energy policy to the extent that we have one is not working.
America must develop a plan for a new energy future that:
∑ Strengthens our national security.
∑ Boosts our economy.
∑ And enhances our air, land, and water.
The path to a new energy future is not particularly complicated. We must reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and develop domestic sources of energy.
That 's why as president of the Montana Senate I worked in the 2005 Legislature to pass a renewable energy bill that says Montana utilities must get 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources by the year 2015. I support a similar national standard that would require by the year 2020 at least 15 percent of our nation 's energy be derived from renewable resources like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy.
That will strengthen our national security and help create jobs here at home, especially in rural Montana.
Here are some other actions we must take:
∑ We must end the experiment with energy deregulation. It simply didn 't work. Deregulation pushed up energy rates, forced job layoffs, and hurt business and consumers. Montanans understand we gave away our low-cost power, and now we must develop a long-term energy strategy that ensures affordable, reliable power that helps business, workers and consumers.
∑ We should aggressively support the development of renewable energy. Unlike fossil fuels, the price of wind is free and does not fluctuate because of a war in the Middle East or hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. Renewable energy does not contribute to global warming or release toxic pollutants like mercury. And, renewable energy is homegrown, made in America, and will reinvigorate rural communities, providing new jobs.
I support appropriate incentives for the renewable energy industry. We give incentives to the oil and gas industry. It 's time to level the playing field. The federal wind Production Tax Credit should be extended for 15 years instead of its usual two years to give the wind power industry some certainty. The Production Tax Credit gives a per-megawatt tax credit to produced wind power, and has been largely responsible for the rapid development of wind energy throughout the country in the last decade.
∑ We must invest in and encourage biodiesel and ethanol development. Biofuels, produced here at home, have the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil while improving our rural farm and ranch economy. Crops for biofuels are not only a source of revenue, but also could be converted to fuel near where they are grown, to be used by producers in their own operations as a substitute for costly petroleum diesel. So, instead of large multinational corporations benefiting from supplying America with energy, a biofuels industry would be decentralized, involving many growers and refiners, which could create thousands of new jobs in Montana 's and America 's heartland.
∑ We cannot disregard the role coal will play in this country, but we must ensure that our use of coal is responsible. I applaud Governor Schweitzer, who has started a dialogue with Montanans on the advisability of turning coal into a liquid fuel. I agree with him that any coal development must occur in an environmentally sound manner. This means addressing global warming by capturing and storing carbon; means the removal of toxins like mercury; and means mining coal and reclaiming the land afterward in a way that protects our land and water.
We must take other steps, like promoting conservation, increasing fuel efficiency standards, and providing funding for energy research programs to ensure America 's best minds are on the task.
The solutions to our problems are in front of us. What has been missing is the political will to make these choices.
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