Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Podium Positions: Energy and Environment

Energy and environmental concerns have been a position of the left for a while. However, that does not mean that conservatives don't know or don't care about energy conservation and environmental concerns. We just don't buy into the liberal hype as much on issues such as global warming. Despite claims about the "consensus" about global warming, there is no consensus. However, that doesn't mean that things don't need to change along the energy and environmental fronts.

Global Warming
Given the outcry of innumerable scientists that there is not a consensus on global warming, and that similar warming trends are taking place on other planets, I am inclined to disagree that global warming on Earth is solely the fault of evil pollutants and corporations. While pollution does not help keep our planet in pristine shape, I fail to see where science has proven this without a doubt.

We should continue to monitor climate trends and the effects that human efforts and solar activity have on our climate. I believe we have not arrived at the true answers about global warming, at least not the most important ones.

Nonetheless, we all want cleaner air and water, it's simply healthier for us. So pursuing smart, sensible conservation efforts is a good thing.

Alternative Energy
Of course, pursuing cleaner and more efficient sources of energy is something worth looking into. Solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, biofuels, hydrogen-powered vehicles, ethanol...these are all worthy projects and should be further researched.

Federally-funded scientific research in the field of energy has already been pointed in the direction of the above-mentioned sources of energy. Continued research should be looked at in the future.

However, until we can make these alternative sources financially prudent for both the producer and consumer, we've got to provide power and electricity to keep ourselves going.

Until Alternatives Become Cost-Effective...
We are still quite a distance from the day that alternative energy sources can become reliable and/or cost-efficient. Until then, we have to focus on what we, as a nation, have at our disposal.

Clean-burning coal is an alternative that we should look at more seriously. In fact, the state of Virginia already has many large deposits of coal that can be used in the "clean-burning" process. Not only does this help on a national level, but also brings relevance and importance to the mining industry in our state.

Let's face it, we deal too much with nations that are hostile towards us when it comes to oil. What we need to do is focus on opening up further drilling in Alaska and other areas of the United States where we are legislatively limited to drill...despite the bounty of oil beneath these restricted grounds which would make us more self-reliant when it comes to oil. Also, with Brazil having recently discovered a new, rather large deposit of oil that they plan on opening up for drilling, it would be sensible to move our trade away from nations like Venezuela to one like Brazil, whose stance towards America is rather favorable.

Another way to reduce our oil dependency is to look towards nuclear energy. Several nations that have been lauded for "being green", like Japan and France, have a much higher percentage of nuclear-generated electricity than America does. 3 Mile Island was almost 29 years ago, and that incident was not only an example of what can go wrong with nuclear power...but also an example of how many safeguards are in place to prevent a nuclear meltdown. It's time to move on and move towards greater use of this efficient and effective form of power.

In fact, by going to clean-burning coal and nuclear power, our oil dependency lessens dramatically...basically for use in automobiles and a minority of households for heating purposes.

Conservative Conservation
For those who doubt the connection of conservatives and conservation, see this exchange between an unnamed southern governor and President Reagan as noted in Edmund Morris' Dutch.

Governor: Mister President, I want to know why a bear needs more fresh air than a human being?
Reagan: Well, Governor, have you ever smelled a bear?

Admittedly, that quote is a bit light and humorous, but Reagan was a fan of sensible conservation of forests and open land. Conservatives, especially the ones who like to claim the mantle of Reagan, would be wise to keep this in mind. As much as we Americans like our clusters of new development making life convenient for us, we also like wide open spaces and lush green forests. While growth in inevitable in a nation such as ours, we could help conserve our wildlands a great deal with smart, conservative conservationism.

I expressed in the Podium Positions regarding the economy, I believe we should begin a new focus on agriculture. Not only would this provide positive economic results, but would also help with creating results from conserving farmland.

Overview
While alternative sources of energy and fuel are undoubtedly the future, they have not been cost-effective for the consumer. Until we can make these products cheap and widely available for public consumption, we still need to power our nation. Clean-burning coal, domestic oil, and especially nuclear power would not only reduce our need for foreign oil, but the clean-burning coal and nuclear power would lessen our need for oil in general.

We must be smart about the protection of wildlands, but neither overly careful nor overly careless. Our nation has always reserved a general love for the wilderness. It's part of our heritage as a country. Agricultural growth will provide dividends both economically and environmentally, as well.

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