Pilot Editorial

Monday, September 20, 2004

Energy: Keep it simple

It's been an interesting period in energy news around here. Everyone agreed on where we need to go, but nobody seems to be on the same page to get there.

Our Senator, Steve King says that we need to achieve energy independence. To get there, he is pushing for drilling in the reserves of oil and natural gas beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and in the public lands of the Continental United States. There is so much fuel to be had, it "almost qualifies as a renewable resource," he says. The sentiment aligns well with the administration's ties to the oil industries.

On Wednesday, the Green Bike people came through with their solar-panel and ethanol-powered bikes, saying that we need to achieve energy independence. They would no doubt choke on King's suggestion, and push instead for alternatives to fossil fuels to save the environment, especially wind energy.

Same end goal, but the suggested routes are about as far separated as you could get.

Both camps should be able to agree on a couple of things. Alternative energy sources such as wind-produced electricity and crop-based fuels are life-and-death issues to the Iowa economy. And that our politicians have failed us completely and miserably on this issue.

The current proposed Energy Bill has idled on in Congress for a shamefully extended period. Issues that should be a slam-dunk, such as renewal of tax credits for wind energy developments, haven't happened - not because political representatives oppose them, but because the political system is so rife with special interests that simple measures end up tied in endless riders and pork-barrel politics. There's probably something in that energy bill by now for anyone to question or oppose.

Good state legislation might promote alternative energy development in public and private ways, instead of as a monopoly for big utilities. But an energy production tax credit in the Iowa Legislature also failed to go anywhere last session. Local Rep. Mary Lou Freeman says it wasn't for lack of support, but because the bill was wrongly written. That should be pretty disturbing to Iowans.

Meanwhile, projects such as the local Intrepid farm have been long delayed, and with them, Iowa's vast potential for development of sources of clean and renewable energy have somewhat passed us by.

Everyone who is speaking is right - we need more energy independence. And Iowa needs these developments - 97% of our energy still comes from outside.

We don't lack agreement on that point. We lack leadership to do what is necessary.