Friday, February 8, 2008

Assuring energy for Idaho

With its 44 counties, Idaho is a natural target for energy-producing companies looking for wide-open spaces to locate new plants where folks can be easily persuaded of the economic benefits of new payrolls and property taxes.

But in all those discussions, one vital factor receives too little emphasis—guarantees that new energy, regardless of its source, will not be just exported to distant states, but will benefit Idaho and meet its growth needs.

This is another of those compelling reasons for creating a state commission with the power to decide where to locate new energy-producing plants of any sort. Understandably, rural counties especially lack the technical, environmental and economic expertise to fully evaluate whether and where energy plants should be sited.

For Idaho, reliable and relatively inexpensive energy is a lifeline for growth. Producers hoping to simply use the state for exporting energy would shortchange our needs.

With changing political winds, the future of all of Idaho's hydro dams cannot be assured. The drumbeat for breaching the dams to rescue migrating salmon from the killer dam hurdles has become more intense among environmentalists, among some federal judges and some Democratic politicians. So, every new energy source—wind and geothermal especially—must be encouraged and properly sited to maximize production as well as to reduce environmental impacts.

State lawmakers must see the wisdom and benefits to all Idahoans of a state commission to regulate plant locations. The knee-jerk attitude that "local decisions" are better is nonsense in this age of complicated energy and environmental sciences.

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