Big step for solar in an 'all of the above' energy plan

This week I visited the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics at Stanford University’s Research Institute where I met with several researchers developing materials that are just as effective but less costly than silicon as a solar energy transmission compound. They and researchers at the University of Texas in my hometown of Austin are at the forefront of making solar energy more widely available and affordable.

Last week, as the lead Republican sponsor, I helped pass a solar energy research and development bill through the House Science and Technology Committee.

The Solar Technology Roadmap Act has potential to be landmark legislation. It doubles the available research and development funding currently available. Further, it provides the collaboration that the professors at Stanford, the University of Texas and other leading institutions need to further their research so they can effectively harness the sun’s energy. The challenges they must overcome include storage, transportation and transmission of solar energy. I am hopeful this is the step that allows us to vastly expand America’s investment in research and development and commercialization of our solar industry.

Long-term, it will give us the ability to more efficiently heat and cool our homes and offices and operate equipment. Energy will cost less and the air we breathe will be cleaner.

Companies in high-tech centers such as Austin and Silicon Valley are in position to compete globally to produce this technology, creating jobs in the United States rather than export them.

While I am a strong proponent of alternative energy, it is only one part of a comprehensive “all of the above” energy strategy I believe our nation needs that embraces both alternative and conventional energy without imposing a national energy tax.

The reality is until alternative energy can meet large-scale demands our nation will remain dependent on fossil fuels. Development of solar, wind, nuclear and clean coal technologies, in addition to increased domestic production of oil and gas, is the most assured way to wean ourselves off of foreign oil and achieve energy independence.

Imposing a national energy tax needlessly hinders economic growth, is detrimental to both our long-term goal of energy independence and our short-term goal of creating jobs and loosening the tax burden on families and businesses. That is why I voted against the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

Similarly, we must loosen the unduly cumbersome permitting processes that have effectively prohibited the construction of new oil refineries and nuclear plants for almost 30 years. 

Maximizing our planet’s abundant energy-producing resources is the key to our energy independence. That means going green as we keep drilling. It’s a hybrid energy policy that I hope both sides of the energy debate can agree on.

McCaul represents Texas’s 10th congressional district. He serves on the Science and Technology Committee and is founder of the House High Tech Caucus.

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