It's time for the U.S. to develop an energy
plan—and stick to it
As a senator for Alaska, I'm reminded of the potential of renewable
energy every time I return home.
For those of you who haven't been to the Last Frontier, it's the
biggest stage for renewables that you'll find anywhere. We have
two-thirds of the nation's coastline—more than all the other
states combined. We're more than twice as large as Texas, and
throughout the state, we are literally an energy storehouse. We have
tremendous potential for wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy,
biomass, and solar. And the need for clean, affordable energy is not
anywhere greater than in rural Alaska, which includes our nation's true
There's a lot of reason for optimism about clean technologies. New
ideas are emerging, costs are coming down, and deployment is
increasing. All of those are welcome developments for our energy supply
and the global environment. Federal policies have played a role, but
much of the progress we've seen is the direct result of your creativity
I would like to share my perspective on how we can ensure that
renewable energy enjoys a brighter future. It starts with my
overarching philosophy about what our nation's energy policy should
look like. I'm a strong believer in an "all of the above"
approach—and that certainly includes a place for renewable
energy. In fact, I believe our policies should reflect five primary
goals, many of which favor renewable resources: we should continually
strive to make our energy supply more abundant, affordable, clean,
diverse, and domestic.
Coming from Alaska, I know that our nation's tremendous resource base
can help us reach those goals. By harnessing all of our resources, we
can grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen our national
security. We should promote everything from energy efficiency to
hydropower and clean coal. But we also have to be careful. Our policies
can't sacrifice the economy or the budget for the environment. We have
to protect all three.
So how can we do this? I believe there are a number of steps that can
be taken—by the federal government, by state and local
governments, and by private companies—that will lead to
meaningful progress on clean energy.
I recently participated in a roundtable discussion on energy innovation
with Bill Gates, Norm Augustine, and several other distinguished
business leaders. One speaker remarked that while we're very good at
coming up with plans, we're terrible at sticking to them. And I think
that's particularly true for energy. We regularly authorize programs
that have little chance of being funded. We pass short-term tax
credits, change them up or let them lapse, and then wonder why they
weren't successful. We need to design policies that can endure both the
passage of time and shifts in party lines and that will receive
consistent funding for five years or ten years—or longer.
So now, the biggest question. Is it possible to ensure a steady stream
of funding for renewable energy? My answer is yes—absolutely.
I look at forecasts and see that our nation now imports about nine
million barrels of oil per day, and 25 years from now, that number is
projected to be largely unchanged. Think about that: eight or nine
million barrels a day, at $100 a barrel or perhaps higher, for the next
quarter century. That will cost our nation trillions of dollars that we
can't spare, and the truth is, we have the resources right here at home
to dramatically reduce those costs.
If we can agree to develop more of our conventional resources, that
would provide billions and billions of dollars in revenues for the
Treasury each year. And if we're smart enough to dedicate a significant
portion of those revenues for clean energy, that will finally provide
the makings of a legitimate long-term energy policy—a policy
where the substantial government revenues from fossil fuels are used to
speed up the development of their replacements. Our best energy policy
will not rely on new mandates or higher taxes—it will instead
help fossil fuels work themselves out of a job.
So when I consider the best ways to keep energy prices low, to create
new jobs, and to bolster our national security, one approach stands
out. Our best path forward is to increase domestic energy production
and ensure that some of the returns to the Treasury are used wisely to
develop the resources we will depend on in the future.
the Record is an excerpt of a speech given by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski,
R-Alaska, at the RETECH conference, hosted by the American Council on
Renewable Energy (ACORE) in September 2011.