Opinion

Commentary: No single solution will secure America's energy future

Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, made the silver ammo analogy last week during her Energy Reality Tour visit to Alaska.

Much as we might long for that lightning strike of transformation on the energy front, the reality will be slower and thornier. The institute has more than 100 recommendations for shaping a comprehensive energy policy that includes increased domestic production of fossil fuels, clear regulations and faster permitting, tax incentives, massive investments in renewable energy technologies, the creation of a Clean Energy Bank to help launch market-worthy renewable energy projects in the United States, investment in transmission lines, smart grids and continued improvement in energy efficiency. And, of particular interest here, the institute calls for strong support by the president and Congress for an Alaska natural gas pipeline.

Harbert's aim on this tour is to launch a national discussion about America's energy future. Can it happen in this divided political atmosphere?

"Partisanship and the sharpness of political debate complicate things," she said. But in the national political standoff she sees an opening for business leaders, local governments and grass-roots organizations to drive the discussion.

In fact, that's what seems to be happening in the United States. Alaska hasn't waited for a national energy policy to set its own ambitious goal of 50 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2025. Iowa and oil-state Texas are leading the way in wind power. The national discussion may soon focus not on what to do, but how to do nationally what we're doing locally.

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