Energy Independence – The Time to Act is Now

August 19, 2008

Government never acts until there is a crisis.
We have heard a lot lately about high gas prices, energy independence, and drilling.

In 1995, the then Republican controlled United States Congress, led by Newt Gingrich passed a law allowing for the drilling of oil in the Anwar area of Alaska. This was sent to President Clinton to sign into law, but was quickly vetoed on the grounds that it would take over ten years for it to come online and have an impact on the market.
Now fast-forward to today. A little more than ten years later, gas prices have skyrocketed, our energy needs continue to increase, and our dependence on foreign, hostile nations who threaten our freedom and democracy continues to grow. Had we been pro-active at that time, we would have more energy resources available to us now when we need it the most. This is yet another example of government refusing to act until after we are in a crisis.

For the past several years Republicans in Congress have submitted an energy plan that focuses on developing new renewable energy sources, while maximizing our current resources. These efforts have continuously been blocked by leaders in the U.S. Senate. All the while, our energy crisis grows. We have not built a refinery since the 1970s, and we are literally sitting on readily available, U.S. oil resources.

Here in Georgia, we are working hard to prepare right now for our future energy needs. We are doing this by diversifying our energy sources, and investing in infrastructure and new technologies.

Georgia Power is seeking state and federal approval to build two new 1,100 megawatt nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. Nuclear power plants do have more up-front costs; however, they have lower fuel and operating costs than fossil fuel plants.
Nuclear energy would add needed diversity to Georgia’s fuel mix at a time when fuel prices continue to increase dramatically. In addition, nuclear energy represents one of the few technologies that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions; it’s clean energy.

On June 5th, Governor Perdue announced that Suniva, Inc. will locate its first solar cell facility, and Georgia’s first solar manufacturing plant, in Norcross. Working with technological advances developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta-based company will manufacture high-efficiency solar cells. Suniva anticipates the new operation will create around 100 jobs within the first year.

Jacoby Energy and Atlanta Gas Light are partnering on the Oak Landfill project that is scheduled to be operational in October of this year. This project will create a renewable energy source by converting the produced methane into energy. The Live Oak Landfill project is an example of the innovation and free market solutions we need to invest in.

We need to provide incentives for companies on the cutting edge of energy technology to move their businesses and research to Georgia. One such company is Natural Resources Recovery Inc. (NRR), which I had the privilege of visiting in Texas. NRR has created a carbonator technology that allows them to convert and recycle waste such as scrap tires into energy and other marketable products. This contributes to a healthy environment while creating new energy production and supply. We want to attract these companies to Georgia for the quality jobs they create and the long–term, positive impact they will have on our energy needs.

We need to pursue every means and resource at our disposal to make our nation independent and self-sufficient for our energy needs. This includes offshore drilling, new exploration, natural gas, clean coal, nuclear, solar, and bio. This is not a republican or democrat issue, it is an American issue. This is an issue that will require purposeful attention and long term thought. Immediate gratification and politically expedient choices will only get us more of the same and continue to make us dependant on other nations.
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Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams represents the 19th Senate District which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at tommie@tommiewilliams.com.