Energy production will be ‘next big issue’Published 7:57am Tuesday, December 17, 2013
By Cam Ward
I have the pleasure of serving as vice chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that states are the Laboratories of Democracy – the good ideas of governance come from the state level, and then are often adopted nationwide if proven to work. My experience with the NCSL Energy Task Force certainly bares this out.
As the chairman of the Alabama Senate Energy Committee, I was recently in Washington, D.C. with colleagues from across the nation, working on a document regarding management and usage of America’s energy supply. While sometimes these types of things tend to get off in the weeds of minutiae, there is much good news for our state and country when it comes to energy.
Alabama ranks 13th in energy production, and has the highest percentage of “mix” in base load production of any southeastern state. That’s a fancy way of saying we’re in the top 25 percent of energy producing states, and we get our energy from a diverse set of fuels including hydroelectric, nuclear, coal and renewables. Each one of the industries creates jobs for our state, and each receives industry-specific tax incentives to ensure lower consumer costs, and higher worker retention rates.
What we do in Alabama has an effect on the national energy situation, just as what is done in North Dakota, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma and even California has an effect on the national energy production picture. North Dakota has the Bakken Oil Fields, which has transformed their economy, and is altering the worldwide balance in oil production. Wyoming and other western states are producing more and cheaper coal and natural gas through a variety of new technologies. Oklahoma and North Texas are taking advantage of their wide-open spaces, and are at the forefront of wind turbine production. Even “Governor Moonbeam” out in California has approved of legislation establishing a permitting system for hydraulic fracturing oil exploration.
Every bit of this is a boon not only to the United States’ economic outlook, but also our foreign policy. In five years we will be a net energy producer, and exporter – something that has not happened in over 40 years. I am proud to represent our state on such a vital and cutting edge taskforce that will have long-term policy indications for our country in the years to come. Energy production will be the next big issue to confront state governments and Alabama needs to be a leader in this area.
Cam Ward is a state senator representing Chilton County.