No alternative to bringing jobs

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

Every election year, particularly a presidential election year, we hear a lot of talk about “Alternative Energy,” and the need for America to develop new sources of energy to end our reliance on “foreign oil.”

In my opinion, we need to reverse that equation, and put the emphasis not on being against any source of energy, but on being for all sources of energy. In Alabama, we are blessed with an abundance of energy sources, from coal, oil and natural gas to switchgrass, algae and wind, and the job creation that comes with them.

One of the main advantages of having so many different types of energy is that our state is not in danger of being pigeon-holed to any one sector in terms of what we use, what we produce, and where we direct our research and development efforts, and the funding that goes with it.

Nor are we pigeon-holed geographically — we have a huge river system and oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. We have coal in Walker County, and switchgrass and algae ethanol producers in West Alabama.

We have research dollars being directed to our universities throughout the state. Diverse geography and diverse sources help insure our energy exploration is less susceptible to economic downturns or shutting off research and development dollars to a particular energy source.

As the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and vice chairman of the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy, I’ve been privileged to watch Alabama’s dedication to alternative energy and the jobs it brings.

My colleagues and I have tried to craft smart, business-friendly legislation that allows Alabama to attract research and development money from a variety of sources, allowing our state’s creative and entrepreneurial citizens to harness these energy alternatives and create jobs in the process.

This summer I have been honored to speak on behalf of the State of Alabama at the Southern States Energy Board in Charleston, W. Va. and to the National Council of State Legislators in Chicago, sharing our experience in Alabama with legislators from around the country. Alabama currently ranks 13th in the nation for energy production.

We are a leading state in the development of a comprehensive energy policy. I always get a burst of pride when one of them tells me they will be sponsoring similar legislation as we have in their own state.

Alternative energy is something that speaks to the boundless creativity of America, and I think we should do all we can as legislators to encourage companies to invest in that sector.

But make no mistake, I also believe in harnessing all of our resources as a state and nation. This is not about stopping fossil fuel development, it is truly about doing all we can to create jobs, and providing an environment for research and development.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.