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Slade Gorton

A former U.S. senator and Washington state attorney general, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.
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Creating majority support for an energy policy

Question: Recent global crises are further highlighting the fault lines of America's shaky energy platform: The tragedy in Japan has brought U.S. nuclear power under scrutiny and the Middle East turmoil has seen oil prices soar, not to mention last year's BP spill tempered prospects for offshore drilling. What leadership will it take to successfully cut through the political barriers and unite the country around forging a real U.S. energy policy?

Uniting the entire country around a serious and effective energy policy is both impossible and unnecessary. But engaged and thoughtful presidential leadership toward such a goal might well succeed in creating a bipartisan alliance and a legislative success.

It would start with the recognition that, for the production of electricity, coal will remain the most important single source for more than another generation; and that a combination of natural gas from the exploitation of domestic shale gas beds and nuclear energy, all with reasonably inexpensive environmental restrictions, will be the key.         

Energy for motor vehicle fuels presents a greater challenge, however, because the single greatest national security threat arises out of our dependence upon unfriendly, costly and unsecure sources for petroleum. No biofuel or subsidies for electric vehicles can more than scratch the surface of this vulnerability, and all require huge investments in new transportation infrastructure.         

Consequently, we need a short-term policy to increase the domestic supply of raw petroleum from places from which the industry is now barred. In the longer term, we need a solution that can use our present energy and transportation infrastructure, does not compete for fresh water or food croplands, reduces greenhouse gases, and can produce enough raw petroleum to free us from our present dependence permanently. Algae technology is the only such source that meets all four requirements and transmutes the production of petroleum into a renewable agricultural crop grown in the United States.         

Such a policy, I am convinced, can command majority support if it originates in strong presidential leadership, a genuine desire for bipartisanship and a willingness to share credit.

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Slade Gorton  | Mar 22, 2011 6:49 PM

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