A political speech the West needs to hear

  • THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, 177660

  • ECOFLIGHT PHOTO PROVIDED BY SKYTRUTH (WWW.SKYTRUTH.ORG)
  • NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABS
  • The Western Governors' Association in 2006 called for the region to develop 30 gigawatts of new clean energy by 2015. The association also wants to remove bureaucratic obstacles to enable construction of new regional transmission lines to "renewable energy resource zones" — rural areas with great potential for wind and solar generation. Colorado's 2007 Legislature passed an innovative law allowing utilities to build transmission lines to wind and solar zones, to spur development of wind and solar plants that don't yet exist. Also in 2007, California's agency regulating the electricity grid OK'd an urban utility's plan to build a $1.8 billion line into the Tehachapi area to spur new wind, solar and geothermal projects. Both actions are models for how other states could encourage new lines into wind and solar zones.

    PETER ESSICK/AURORA/GETTY IMAGES
  • The federal government responded to the energy crisis of the 1970s by pouring more money into the Department of Energy's research and development projects. But as soon as the crisis ended, and Ronald Reagan took office, the funding faucet was reduced to a trickle, especially when it comes to renewable energy sources. Even as the nation faces another energy crisis, research funds are less than a third of what they were in 1978.

    Gallagher, k.S., Sugar, A, Segal, D, de Sa, P, and John P. Holdren, DOE
  • ISTOCK, US BUREAU OF RECLAMATION, NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LAB
 

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"We can work together on this. Let's help farmers and ranchers stave off subdivisions by helping them do New Energy developments. Let's take action on global warming, and reduce Western wildfires and drought. Let's slow the oil and gas rush. Let's heal the wounds in the federal agencies, by freeing them from the corruption so often found under Old Energy.

"Add New Energy projects to the farm bill, for better rural diversification. Add New Energy projects to private land conservation deals. Add New Energy projects to mining law reform, because mined land is already disturbed. Generate power with the methane vented from coal mines rather than just put it into the air.

"Together we can preserve the West's values and lead the nation and the world on a better, cleaner path. Join me, Westerners, on the new frontier.

Ray Ring is High Country News senior editor.

Note: in the print issue, this feature story is interspersed with many quotes from energy experts and policy-makers, as well as infographics of energy use and potential development.

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