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Blog: Power the Nation: Research and Development of Alternative Energy Sources Today Can Lead to Lower Energy Costs in the Future

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In order to truly adopt an all-of-the-above energy strategy, we must use both traditional and nontraditional energy sources, like solar energy, wind energy, and biofuels. Unfortunately, President Obama's attempt to reward campaign contributors via crony capitalism mixed with his attack dogs at the EPA forcing "green energy" down the throats of every American through out-of-control regulations has given a black eye to the alternative energy industry.

But we shouldn't let President Obama and Congressional Democrats dominate the conversation when it comes to alternative energy. While much of the industry is still in its infancy, continuing to encourage private industry to expand their research and development of alternative energy sources can mean lower energy costs in the future and job creation right now.

And we are already seeing the positive impact alternative energy can have here in Georgia. Take MAGE Solar in Dublin, Georgia for example. MAGE Solar is developing technology to turn the heat of the sun into a viable energy source in the future. The announcement that they would build their new plant in Dublin was one of the Georgia Department of Economic Development's top five economic development stories of 2010. And for good reason. We knew back then the impact they could have going forward. Since locating in Dublin, the company now employs 350 Georgians without the aid of any federal government loans, proving the solar energy industry can thrive in today's market. And demonstrating the solar industry should not be punished for the misdeeds of the president's interactions with Solyndra.

In addition, Georgia is currently exploring offshore wind energy production. Wind energy is a clean and efficient energy source and we have seen a dramatic increase in the expansion of wind farms across the United States and off our coasts. Because wind turbines take up very little room on the ground, farmers and ranchers in states like Oklahoma and Texas have had the turbines in their fields bring in much-needed additional revenue that has helped to keep many family farms afloat. Today, more than 48,000 megawatts of energy come from wind turbines -- that's enough to power 12,000,000 homes on average. If Georgia is able to get into that market with offshore wind turbines, it could lead to lower energy costs in our state as well as more jobs. But it's not just about wind energy production in Georgia. Georgia is home to more than a dozen companies that make wind turbine parts. So whether our offshore exploration is successful or not, the more the wind industry expands, the more jobs we will see created in Georgia at these plants.

But, perhaps the alternative energy source with potentially the biggest impact on Georgians comes from the field of advanced biofuels. The days of fuel additives like corn-based ethanol -- which has been one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the country -- will soon be a thing of the past. They will be replaced with new and improved biofuels that can serve as an actual replacement to traditional fuels in the future. In addition, many of these new and improved biofuels can grow on land not suitable for food crops. This means they will not cause the food supply to be constrained and can bring jobs and income to many of our nation's poorest rural communities with land where food crops cannot grow.

One of these next-generation biofuels called miscanthus is ideal to be grown in the southeast. According to a recent study by the University of Georgia, miscanthus would thrive in a state like Georgia. It is carbon neutral -- meaning it absorbs as much carbon dioxide as it releases when converted to fuel -- and it has the potential to outgrow both corn and switchgrass in the southeast where rain is plentiful. And miscanthus is a perennial that only needs to be planted once every ten years.

These are all great advances, but like I said earlier, many alternative energy sources are still in their infancy. That doesn't mean we should ignore them by any means. But it does mean that we need to be realistic about their role in our current energy plans. Much of the technology behind alternative energy sources still needs research, which takes time. Relying too heavily on them immediately -- like the president and many Congressional Democrats have been trying to force the American people to do through overregulation at the EPA -- will only cause energy prices to rise and resentment of alternative energy to fester.

Next week I will talk about the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act recently rolled out by House Republicans. The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act is a package of energy legislation aimed at increasing the production of American-made energy, creating American jobs, and lowering energy costs for American families. I encourage you to visit my website each week to check out the latest edition of Power the Nation.


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