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The Potential Of Wind Energy

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Energy is the lifeblood of the American economy. Our country is fortunate to have energy resources ranging from underground deposits of oil and natural gas to wind, hydro, and solar power.

The question is how we can make the best use of every form of domestic energy. Recently, I toured areas of the Gulf Coast to take a first-hand look at our nation's offshore drilling infrastructure.

It was insightful to see the offshore exploration process and to learn how environmentally-safe the entire process is. Louisiana is the nation's largest offshore oil and gas producer, and there are pipelines from the Gulf of Mexico to virtually every part of the country, including Nebraska.

But America needs to ensure we have as diverse an energy portfolio as possible, including making the best possible use of wind generated power.

According to a Department of Energy report published in May 2008, land-based and offshore wind resources could provide a much greater proportion of the nation's demand for electrical energy.

However, in order to expand from today's proportion of electric generation from wind (less than 2 percent), our nation's energy infrastructure will require several significant advances including wind turbine technology, improved wind forecasting capability, improved energy storage, and most importantly the expansion of transmission systems to deliver wind power from resource centers to centers of population.

It is the last point which has proved particularly vexing to me.

America has tremendous wind energy potential, but our energy infrastructure needs to have the ability to create energy in one part of the country and use it in another. Otherwise, it is the equivalent of building a restaurant in the middle of a pasture.

Nebraska ranks sixth in wind energy potential, behind North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana. We are behind Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Kansas regarding wind energy generation.

Nebraska's wind generation ranking is in large part due to the fact our state - even though we have tremendous wind energy potential -- lacks the transmission capacity to send the energy to other parts of the country.

Recently I authored an amendment to the Wind Energy Research and Development Act which would allow for research and development for ways to efficiently and cost-effectively create high-voltage transmission for renewable energy.

The Wind Energy Research and Development Act will help our nation's infrastructure make better use of wind energy, but we also have to make sure we have a diverse energy portfolio. This legislation is scheduled to be on the House floor for a final vote in the very near future.

America needs a comprehensive national energy plan, not a debilitating national energy tax under the guise of ‘cap-and-trade.' An all-of-the-above approach to our energy policy - one which includes offshore oil and gas production as well as the advancement of technologies to develop alternative sources of energy such as wind power - needs to be on the table.

I am a cosponsor of the American Energy Act - a plan which takes just such an all-of-the-above approach to energy independence, more jobs, and a cleaner environment without imposing a national energy tax.

In order to become truly energy independent, we must continue to explore all forms of domestic energy, including wind power. As Congress continues to debate energy legislation, I want to make sure we are not only making the best use of our energy resources, but also looking to the future for our energy security.


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