More government not the answer to pitching renewable energy
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota has a solid, traditional energy foundation in oil and coal. The state also has wind to spare and offers a bounty in crops that industry can convert into ethanol and biodiesel. The people of North Dakota pretty much ...
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota has a solid, traditional energy foundation in oil and coal. The state also has wind to spare and offers a bounty in crops that industry can convert into ethanol and biodiesel. The people of North Dakota pretty much are sold on producing energy in its many forms. A harder sell has been creating demand for energy from renewable sources.
The solution is to use government to create demand and energize the market for electricity generated by wind and fuels from crops, according to former U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, who recently spoke at the Renewable Energy Action Summit at Bismarck (N.D.) State College. He suggested the U.S. experience with the Internet and mobile phones, which piggybacked on military development of technologies, be applied to the renewable energy industry.
Despite North Dakota's growing comfort with energy in all its forms, the state is less comfortable with growing more government. We would prefer market solutions. And where market solutions themselves are not enough, we prefer market-based incentives.
North Dakotans are not naive about markets. We've watched wheat and cattle prices go through cycles of good and bad since the first sod was turned over in Dakota Territory. Farmers and ranchers in the state have enjoyed the benefits of high prices and suffered through low prices. We do know about markets.
It's not like the federal government has not been involved in renewable energy. The wind farms we see sprouting up on the prairie are in response to government pressure on power companies. The ethanol plants around the area rely on subsidies and consumer incentives at the pump. A host of grants are in place funding energy research at the state's universities.
As a matter of national security, we do see a need for a clearly stated national energy policy -- one that acknowledges the role of traditional sources as well as renewable sources, one based on common sense wisdom.
How much more do we want the federal government involved in renewable energy? Not so much.
A former 4-star general, Clark has been steeped in government and takes his cue from the military-industrial complex. He sees a need for more government spending. We do not. North Dakotans are wary of expanding government when the federal debt has swelled beyond all good sense.