America's dependence on foreign oil is a threat to the economy and to national security. To achieve energy independence, everything has to be on the table, starting with increased domestic production. Matheson included a provision in a House-passed energy bill that lifts the moratorium on oil shale leasing in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, if the state enacts a law in support of commercial leasing. Utah's Uintah Basin has rich oil shale deposits, containing an estimated 214 billion barrels of oil in place, according to estimates by the U.S. Geologic Survey. If extraction technology proves commercially viable, the oil produced could become jet and diesel fuels. Matheson said existing environmental reviews and regulations must be followed. Utah's energy industry - whether it is traditional sources of oil and gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands or renewable such as solar, wind and geothermal--is an important contributor to the country's expanding need for secure, affordable energy.
"Green Schools" Caucus
Energy efficient schools cost less to operate. In states such as Utah, where education dollars are stretched thin, the energy cost savings in "green schools" would be a boon to the educational bottom line in local school districts. On average, energy-efficient schools save $100,000 per year--enough to hire two new teachers, buy 500 new computers or purchase 5000 new textbooks. With the cost on average less than $3 per square foot more to build, construction costs for a "green" school can be recouped in the first year of operation. Matheson co-chairs the Green Schools Caucus--a bipartisan group formed to draw attention to the environmental, educational and health advantages of "green" schools. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, which created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, a LEED-certified school:
* Uses 30-50% less energy than conventional schools
* Uses 30% less water
* Reduces harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 40%
* Have better lighting and temperature controls to promote higher student achievement.
Renewable Energy for Schools
Schools are vulnerable to the sky-rocketing costs of energy. When energy budgets take a hit, kids' education suffers. Matheson has introduced legislation that would give Utah public school districts the financial means to purchase renewable energy products. The Renewable Schools Energy Act would provide zero interest bonds to public school districts seeking to invest in renewables such as solar panels, geothermal heat pumps or small wind turbines. Repayment would be 20 years from the issuance of the bond. Total bonding authority would be $50 million for the first year. Eligible states are Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Idaho--selected because of their rapid growth and their significant renewable energy resource potential. One successful model is in San Diego, where three school districts have been using solar power at dozens of school buildings to provide as much as 95 percent of a school's energy needs, since 2005.