Energy supply next big issue for state officials

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By CAM WARD/State Senator

I have the pleasure of serving as vice chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that states are “The Laboratories of Democracy” – the good ideas of governance come from the state level, and are often adopted nationwide if proven to work. My experience with the NCSL Energy Task Force certainly bares this out.

This week as the chairman of the Alabama Senate Energy Committee, I was in Washington, D.C. with colleagues from across the nation, working on a document regarding management and usage of America’s energy supply.

Alabama ranks 13th in energy production, and has the highest percentage of “mix” in base load production of any southeastern state. That’s a fancy way of saying we’re in the top 25 percent of energy producing states, and we get our energy from a diverse set of fuels: hydro-electric, nuclear, coal and renewables. Each industry creates jobs for our state, and each receives industry-specific tax incentives to ensure lower consumer costs and higher worker retention rates.

What we do in Alabama has an effect on the national energy situation, just as what is done in North Dakota, Wyoming, Texas and Oklahoma has an effect on the national energy production picture. North Dakota has the Bakken Oil Fields, which has transformed their economy, and is altering the worldwide balance in oil production. Wyoming and other western states are producing more and cheaper coal and natural gas through a variety of new technologies. Oklahoma and north Texas are at the forefront of wind turbine production.

Every bit of this is a boon not only to the United States’ economic outlook, but also our foreign policy. In five years we will be a net energy producer and exporter, which has not happened in over 40 years. I am proud to represent our state on such a vital and cutting edge task force that will have long-term policy indications for our country in the years to come. Energy production will be the next big issues to confront state governments and Alabama needs to be a leader in this area.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.