Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Congress fritters away valuable time for energy revolution

Government bankrolling or direct research and development have spurred every major industrial and technological innovation in U.S. history, from aviation to nuclear power.

Now, as Americans beg for a revolution in energy sources and government's help, Washington is paralyzed with fear and indecision and political gamesmanship.

Hardliners are holding up energy legislation by demanding immediate approval of offshore drilling for oil.

This gridlock is holding up a vital key to creating new energy sources hostage—a 30 percent tax credit for solar- and wind-energy development.

Solar power and wind power are no longer esoteric visions of laboratory theorists. They are here and now, feasible, doable and workable.

Longtime oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is accelerating the impetus for wind power with his own plan to invest $1 billion of his own fortune in a Texas wind farm, the nation's largest. Several states, including Oregon and Arizona, are mounting aggressive campaigns to attract wind power operators to their states.

Instead of being targeted by nuclear power speculators as a site for new plants, Idaho, too, should be a leader in this hunt for major wind and solar power developments to meet needs of its growing population with clean energy.

So far, Congress has tried and failed seven times in the past year or so to renew the energy tax credit to quicken energy development. Estimates are that solar and wind power projects have the potential for tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

As Pickens points out, U.S. oil consumption this year will mean some $700 billion sent abroad to petroleum-producing countries to pay for American imports, now accounting for 70 percent of the nation's oil needs. Every stride toward alternative energy sources for industry, home and automotive will reduce sending more dollars abroad.

A few influential congressional naysayers complain the government can't afford a 30 percent tax credit for solar and wind power. That's utter nonsense. Congress has had no reluctance in doling out $10 billion per month and more for the war in Iraq and for tax breaks and stimulus checks to nearly every American family.

Despite its cries for "energy independence," Congress seems to forget that reliable, endless sources of non-fossil-fuel energy is a matter of critical national strategic importance, as vital as a robust military force.

The solar- and wind-energy tax credit is the necessary carrot for encouraging industry to make the first expensive investments that lead to productive wind and solar farms.

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