Energy development will assuredly be a top campaign issue in national and state elections this year. The connection between energy to economic development and national security (in addition to $4 gallon gasoline that makes it a very real part of our everyday lives) will put a white-hot spotlight on the debate.
Meanwhile, as the nation grapples with how to address the economic and environmental issues surrounding energy independence, Utah is once again leading the way and providing the example to follow. Abundant energy resources and responsible production provide our state with a significant competitive advantage in recruiting new companies to the state and helping Utah companies to expand. In fact, when Forbes named Utah the “Best Place for Business” the article specifically cited energy costs which are 30% below the national average. That is great news for the citizens and businesses of our state NOW but we must do what is necessary today to maintain that competitive edge in the future.
To that end, Governor Herbert convened a council of experts to develop a Ten-Year Energy Plan – the first plan of its kind in our state’s history. While the plan outlines an approach for aggressive energy development, it also calls for balance and stewardship that gets beyond the politically-hyped rhetoric of the “drill, baby, drill” chanting on one side and the oil derrick next to Delicate Arch imagery on the other side.
As with his other cornerstones of Education, Jobs and Self-determination, Governor Herbert has identified a specific “Energy Goal” along with objectives and action items. The goal for Utah’s energy independence is to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy by producing 25% more electrical energy than we consume by 2020.”
The Energy Objectives are:
Objective 1: Advocate responsible energy resource development.
Objective 2: Promote policies and practices for improved air quality.
Objective 3: Aggressively pursue technology innovations in energy efficiency and development.
The action items in the Governor’s 2012 workplan that move us toward accomplishing those objectives include:
1. Assure appropriate access to public lands and a reasonable permitting and environmental process for energy development.
2. Create the Energy Research Triangle to coordinate energy innovation and clean-air efforts at the major universities and regional colleges.
3. Expand the Constitutional Defense Fund to challenge unreasonable federal regulations that obstruct responsible energy development.
4. Consolidate state authority on transmission and pipeline planning and funding into the Office of Energy Development.
5. Create the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) – a voluntary program for businesses and individuals to implement clean air strategies.
6. Advance the discussion of the viability of nuclear power in Utah through a comprehensive suitability study including water, waste disposal, and safety.
In Utah, we have proven that developing our energy resources and being good stewards of the environment are not mutually exclusive propositions. Yesterday’s announcement of over 3,600 new, natural gas wells permitted in the Uintah Basin demonstrates this fact. This kind of progress takes collaboration that leads to innovation and initiative – which is exactly what we need to maintain our energy independence.