Alaska’s Journal of Commerce reported that the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee agreed on our country’s first comprehensive energy policy reform bill since 2007. It credits the hard work by committee chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaskan Republican, and ranking Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington.
The Journal reported that the U.S. House also developed a plan. Lawmakers are set to go to conference after the summer recess and hope to have a bill on President Obama’s desk before he leaves office.
There are many opportunities to put Americans back to work, sell energy products and technology, and generate much-needed tax revenue — revenue that could help pay off our $19.5 trillion national debt.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that global energy demand will increase 40 percent between now and 2046.
America is positioned to lead the development of all energy production and technology if Republicans and Democrats will continue to bridge differences. It is not easy.
Republicans believe we must invest in carbon fuels, including coal, which are abundant, clean, affordable and a reliable domestic energy source. They would reverse the trend toward eliminating coal and put thousands of coal miners and power plant operators back to work. Democrats focus on climate change by curtailing coal, natural gas and oil and believe renewable energy technology will bring new jobs.
The lightning rod in the debate is fracking — the new technology to extract oil and natural gas from deep beneath the earth. Over the last five years, fracking has made America the world’s top oil and gas producer, accounting for thousands of new family-wage jobs.
EIA says the U.S. now is the world’s top oil and natural gas producer. Our natural gas production exceeds Russia’s output, and we even outpaced Saudi Arabia in oil.
Aside from the debate over oil, gas and coal, there are other energy projects on which both sides may find agreement. They are complex and daunting.
For example, Washington could link its bountiful wind and water resources. We could build pump-storage facilities along the Columbia River in Central Washington that would increase our hydropower output. Our state receives 70 percent of its electricity from water power.
Here’s how it works: When wind farms produce a surplus of electricity, water from Columbia River reservoirs could be pumped hundreds of feet uphill to newly constructed reservoirs. It would be stored until peak-load electrical-demand periods, when it would be dropped through penstocks into turbines to generate hydropower.
Pump storage projects are gaining acceptance, but finding the money to fund them is a problem. If they are part of a national energy strategy, chances are better that financing will occur.
There are many opportunities to continue to make America “the world’s energy leader.” But it does take an open-minded commitment to look at all options and a desire resolve differences.
Don Brunell, retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, is a business analyst, writer, and columnist. He lives in Vancouver and can be contacted at TheBrunells@msn.com