Alternative energy: striking a balance between caution and execution

There has been increasing news coverage of alternative energy, most notably due to the explosion in energy prices over the last couple years.  I saw two interesting articles over the last day, one from the conservative editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, and the other from The New York Times.

Please note – photo courtesy of The New York Times (photographer: Christinne Muschi).

The WSJ opinion piece points out that one of the key barriers to growth in alternative energy is infrastructure, most notably transmission lines connecting the sources of energy (wind and solar fields in rural and desert locations in the plains and Southwest) and the cities in which most people live.  The WSJ, in it’s characteristic fashion, blames this challenge on liberals, who they claim support alternative energy but oppose the construction of transmission lines, as they often have to go through protected lands.  Here’s a link to the piece.

The Times describes challenges and conflicts of interest that have arisen in upstate New York, where wind revenue has become critical for family farmers.  The article highlights instances when local town boards have voted on wind leases for firms when several of the individual members already had contracts in place for their own farms.  A key issue, the article goes on to discuss, is that there is no statewide (New York) law on wind power, so it is up to the individual towns to decide.  Here’s a link to the article.

If alternative energy is to become more widespread (according to the WSJ, wind only provides two-thirds of 1% of electricity generated in the U.S., and solar one-tenth of 1%), there will have to be better statewide and national legislation that fast tracks the development of wind farms, solar fields, and other energy sources.  At the same time, a balance has to be struck between speed and careful examination of the intricacies of development (impact on local environments, costs, etc).

Nevertheless, it is no longer debatable that these technologies are needed.  In fact, weaning our country off of foreign oil and developing better domestic, renewable (and clean) energy resources are key elements and ingredients to the future success of our country.  My sincere hope is that the right balance can happen in order to unlock this power and bring jobs to local markets with it.