America faces a national energy crisis. Worldwide demand for traditional energy sources is growing at an unprecedented rate, yet supplies are limited. Alternative energy sources are available but are neither abundant nor affordable. Worse yet, we have become overdependent on foreign energy supplies, importing more than $700 billion in energy products each year. America, a major economic superpower, needs a comprehensive energy policy that ensures energy independence in our future.
Americans enjoy the highest standard of living, but our quality of life requires abundant, affordable energy. As the global population expands, other nations desiring a similar quality of life are increasing their use of limited energy supplies. The dynamic progress in China, India, Asia and Eastern Europe places enormous pressure on the world's ability to meet its growing energy requirements.
Conservation efforts are needed and will help. But with the population of the Grand Strand projected to grow considerably during the next decade, conservation alone will not solve our local energy needs. Nor will offshore drilling.
The cries of drill here, drill now are attracting support nationwide in hopes of using untapped resources, including the expansive deposits of natural gas off the S.C. coast. While drilling proponents maintain that offshore drilling can be done far enough off the coast to minimize the impact on the coastal environment and coastal tourism, it is clear that demand for both petroleum and natural gas is increasing steadily, and so too will the price of these commodities. Rising prices and limited supplies give us further reason to wean ourselves from these traditional energy sources.
Renewable energy sources offer great potential, though none are sufficient to establish a major base of power generation. Wind energy and solar energy are used in limited fashion, but with further research, usage will broaden and costs will fall. Methane gas captured from landfills is being successfully used today, and capture of wave energy in the ocean is being studied. Many other possibilities exist. Renewables offer environmentally friendly energy sources that may create business opportunities and attract new jobs to our state. In fact, some experts estimate renewable energy could amass a $4.5 trillion economic value by 2030.
Another key energy source, nuclear power, should not be ignored. Nuclear energy is clean and efficient. Other nations have made great strides with nuclear power, while we fall further behind. Today, 43 nuclear stations are under construction throughout the world, yet none are in the U.S.
A comprehensive, national energy plan can deliver energy independence while setting an example for individual states to follow by treating energy as a product for economic development.
But it's not enough to have an energy plan. We must combine this with an environmental and economic plan to ensure our energy needs are matched with sound public policy. Key components of a national and state energy policy should include:
Replacing oil company tax breaks with market-driven, incentive-based development of renewable and alternative energy sources, using tax credits for R&D and tax rebates for usage;
Reducing barriers for new energy sources and incentivizing domestic development of such;
Responsible, environmentally friendly drilling for oil or natural gas in areas that are likely to produce substantial resources, while protecting the coastline.
Broadened use of nuclear power, including streamlined regulatory approvals;
Reasonable standards of environmental protection for existing energy sources, including blended strategies for safe energy combinations, like clean-coal firing with wood waste;
A commitment to reduce and eventually eliminate overdependence on energy commodities, like petroleum and natural gas;
A sensible, measurable effort to nurture a culture of voluntary energy conservation.
The issues related to our energy needs affect our quality of life, our workplace and the worldwide economy. It is not a Republican problem, nor a Democrat one. Rather, it is a national challenge that can only be met through sound scientific research; a commitment to efficiency balanced with environmental stewardship; and proactive public policy that incentivizes those who develop, distribute and use key energy sources. We can become energy-independent in our future, but we must make this a national priority. Future generations will not judge us by the circumstances we face today but, rather, by the nation we leave behind for tomorrow. Energy independence will make us a stronger, more competitive nation.
The writer is president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.