Invest in America’s energy priorities

Investing in our nation’s energy needs is one of the best ways to transform our economy, create new jobs, and strengthen our national security. With the annual appropriations season nearing, it’s important to remember that our investments must be part of a larger, long-term strategy to address our nation’s excessive dependence on foreign oil. While there are big challenges facing our country, there is some good news when it comes to our energy future.

An American priority

The American public understands the need to change our energy strategy. We all remember when the price of gasoline topped $4 a gallon last summer. It was a wake-up call to remind us about the need to do two things. First, we need to fix the oil futures market that now allows speculators to manipulate the price of oil. Second, we need to produce more oil and other forms of energy here at home.

Producing more homegrown energy strengthens our national security by giving less of our money to many regions of the world that often do not wish us well. Just as important, energy should play a big part in our nation’s economic recovery. As our country continues to pull itself out the financial trouble that we’re in, new energy technologies and new energy investments will be a major component to putting more people back to work and stabilizing our economy.

New technologies on the horizon

As chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations panel, one of my top priorities is to invest in the new energy technologies that will have the most dramatic impact on our nation’s ability to produce more energy, conserve more energy, make it easier to move energy around the country, and do all of these things with an eye on how these choices impact our environment and climate.

Those choices include drilling for oil and gas in new areas. It includes finding ways to de-carbonize the use of coal. And, it means maximizing our development of renewable energy.

Investing in efficiency programs is by far the quickest way to reduce our energy use. Programs that encourage greater efficiency in our buildings and industrial processes will dramatically reduce the amount of energy people and businesses use. As we pursue immediate investments such as efficiency, we also must take bold and aggressive action to invest in technologies that will allow us to continue to use coal in the future, such as carbon capture and sequestration. Our country has an abundance of coal, and we’re going to continue to use this domestic energy source to power our nation. But we will use it differently.

There are many technologies in development right now that hold promise for de-carbonizing coal. If our country can successfully do this, it will be a major boost on the road to energy independence.

We must also continue developing our renewable energy resources. One of the main barriers to using more renewable energy is limited electricity transmission capacity, particularly in the less populated areas where there is significant renewable potential. We need to build a national electricity transmission system to connect our country’s abundant renewable resources to our cities.

In places like my home state of North Dakota, we have major energy production capability of nearly all kinds, but our ability to send electric power to the load centers that need it is limited by transmission capacity. If we are serious about getting more renewable energy on the grid, we must invest in a modern national interstate transmission system.

Transforming our nation’s energy will take some time, but we have to start now. It will require a transition period, with sustained investments in research and development and a focus on new, clean energy projects that will work in the marketplace.

Fortunately, our country has always been at the forefront of energy innovation, and I am optimistic that with the development of a national commitment to a new era of both energy security and national security, we will change our future in a very positive way.

Dorgan is chairman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.