Time to transform Utah's energy-producing future

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Anyone who knows Utah knows the power of wind, water and sun. You can see that power in Utah’s sculpted arches of stone, in our majestic mountains capped with snow, and in the cracked earth of our deserts.

Nature’s power is so obvious that you have to wonder why we’ve mostly ignored it as a source of energy to run our homes and businesses, and to propel our cars and trucks.

After all, if we did a little more to harness that power, we could begin to solve some of our most pressing environmental and economic challenges. In fact, creating electricity from the energy that nature gives us is critical if we’re going to reduce global-warming pollution, protect public health with clean air and water, create jobs in Utah and ultimately bring down energy prices. We know that burning fossil fuels is destabilizing the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans. We know that our dependence on oil shackles us to dangerous foreign regimes and to the escalating prices they’ll inevitably charge as demand outstrips supply. But we also know how to break our dependence and free ourselves from this destructive cycle.

Why keep buying foreign crude when we could be making energy right here in Utah from sunlight, wind and geothermal power? Why rip up more pristine wilderness to extract dirty fuels when we could generate clean power from the energy nature delivers to our doorstep?

Dollar for dollar, investing in clean energy creates more jobs than investing in traditional energy sources like oil and gas. That really matters, especially when you consider that more than 30,000 Utah workers lost their jobs last year.

We’ve got tens of thousands of windy acres here in Utah, sites for geothermal energy abound, and the southern part of the state has tremendous potential for solar power. We will have to carefully pick renewable energy sites that don’t endanger critical habitat and wilderness-quality land, but the opportunity is vast.

So how can we jump start a home-grown clean-energy economy?

Right now Congress is working on a landmark clean-energy jobs plan that would boost the amount of wind, solar and other clean energy our country produces. The American Clean Energy and Security Act will also make our vehicles, appliances and buildings more efficient, and update our antiquated electricity grid.

Our investments in clean energy and efficiency today will pay dividends for generations. They will create good, family-sustaining jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, and they will lower energy prices in the long run. They will reduce energy dependence and global-warming pollution, and make our economy more competitive. It’s true that the economic and environmental challenges we confront are serious. But Americans have never encountered a challenge of any kind that we couldn’t overcome by working together and applying our ingenuity.

That is what we need to do right now. The only missing ingredient is a spirit of innovation, cooperation and resolve amongst our political leaders. From the copper-domed Capitol in Salt Lake City to the halls of power in Washington, our leaders need to reconsider their allegiance to the dirty-fuels industry, stop their bickering, and act boldly to move America toward a new energy economy.

In the coming weeks, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, can lead the way. As a key member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he’ll play a pivotal role before Memorial Day in determining whether Congress even gets to vote on the clean-energy jobs bill. Now is the time to let Matheson and all of our leaders know that we expect them to do what’s right for our people, our economy, our land and our future.

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