Energy issues matter in Alabama

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

Gas prices on the rise, dependence on foreign oil, oil shale development, natural gas “fracking,” Alaska National Wildlife Refuge drilling, and even the BP disaster off Alabama’s coast — when energy issues are in the news, they are usually presented in a negative light.

In Alabama, we have a chance to reverse that trend. Energy issues and developing alternative energy solutions are an opportunity to create jobs for our citizens.

The price of crude oil keeps rising. The global market for fuel cares not about individual states or nations — and demand for a scarce resource will continue to grow, squeezing our economy and government, if we let it.

We have abundant energy resources here in Alabama that can help us alleviate some of the pain from the constant rise in gas prices. We are ranked 13th in the nation for energy production.

Much of that comes from hydroelectric sources, but we also have biomass fuel production, and research and development focused on growing our energy production potential.

I was recently named as the vice chairman of the Standing Committee on Energy, Transportation and Agriculture by the National Council of State Legislatures.

While that is a big honor for me as an elected official and a leader in our state, I understand that it probably sounds like gobbledy-gook to most people.

Let me tell you why I think it matters. The NCSL is an organization that is primarily about ideas — what policies work in our states and why? How can we be a force for job creation and help the economy get back on track? What matters will shape the future of our economy and how can we make sure they are shaped for the good?

With this appointment, I am now in a position to help lead and foster an environment of innovation in Alabama.

Agriculture is still our biggest industry. So go our farmers, so goes our state. Transportation has shaped the economy throughout our nation’s history — and the change in modes of transportation in each century has shaped the state of our nation.

Along with being vice chair of an NCSL committee, I am co-chair of the Alabama State Senate Energy Committee and the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy.

My focus in all of these areas is energy policy and what it means to Alabama — but more importantly, it is to analyze current policy and see how we can use policies to create jobs for Alabama.

I am a believer in our people, and I am a believer in our collective brainpower. The capacity for innovation in our state is limitless. It is my intention to help create an environment free from harmful and burdensome regulation to allow our people to innovate.

It is important that we harness our abundant natural resources, both in Alabama and as a nation, to ensure we stay economically competitive into the 21st century.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.