Is America’s energy policy ready for the future?

By Dwight Evans, Southern Co.
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How America will go about meeting its energy needs has been a focal point of discussion for quite some time. Energy companies, environmental groups, business leaders, politicians and the public at large all have an opinion as to what the nation should do and how it should be done.

Regardless of the differences, most all agree that America must be prepared to deal with growth-a growing population with a growing thirst for energy-while continuing to keep costs reasonable and energy supply reliable in a way that is environmentally favorable.

You can call it America’s “power play,” but the fact remains that our nation needs an energy policy that meets the growing demands of our people and keeps our

economy strong and viable while at the same time protecting the environment.

It’s a difficult challenge to balance the energy needs of a growing population while at the same time protecting the environment. In order to meet this challenge, energy companies must be able to continue to invest in the development of new and cleaner energy technologies. A vibrant economy will allow us to stay on track to continue those efforts. There’s no doubt that technology is the answer as we seek better, cleaner, more efficient ways to generate electricity.

The Bush administration and our nation’s representatives in Congress are working now to develop energy legislation that we hope places the nation on a path of energy independence with environmental benefits. This legislation should not only encourage investments in new technology but also energy independence.

Since 1992, demand for electricity has surged 30 percent in the U.S., while supply has increased less than six percent. The Energy Information Administration estimates that electricity demand in the U.S. alone will increase by another 30 percent over the next 20 years.

Our national economy is at stake. Affordable and reliable electricity has driven American economic expansion for many generations and made us the most productive and prosperous country in the world. Energy is second only to labor in determining the cost of goods and services.

We must have access to affordable and reliable power or economic expansion could falter. Keeping energy costs low for consumers and businesses will, in turn, promote economic growth and employment and thus further promote increased prosperity for our country.

A balanced energy policy must recognize the importance of affordable electricity to consumers and businesses, and it must encourage the use of all domestic fuel resources available to meet increased electricity demand. Again, much emphasis into the development of new technologies, including renewable energy options, also must be a part of the energy policy.

Energy conservation and increasing our energy efficiency are also critical. Just as we should not rely on any single fuel source, we should not rely on any one approach. Americans must better learn how to use energy wisely, as must businesses. As an energy company, we should be a part of that education process.

And as an energy company, we will not back away from that responsibility or any other. In fact, as the president developed an energy strategy (and as discussions surrounding legislation continued), energy companies have been a part of the process. We should be at the table when policies are being discussed that not only impact our business but also affect those who invest in our business and the millions of people who need the energy we provide.

The real issue should not be whether energy companies have a say in the process of developing an energy strategy for our nation, but that the strategy effectively institutes a fair rulemaking process based on science-in addition to being flexible, market-based and implemented over a reasonable period of time.

There is no quick fix. There are serious issues of energy, economic and environmental importance that need to be addressed in serious ways. Rhetoric and scare tactics do more to confuse and divide than tackle the problems. But we can meet these challenges as a nation if we work together and if we put our efforts into finding the right solutions.

Dwight Evans is Executive Vice President and President, external affairs group of Southern Company, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at 404-506-5333.


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