Friday, March 10, 2006

Idaho Legislature Week Nine Report - Sen. Clint Stennett

Legislative News from the Senate Minority Leader...

Senator Clint Stennett
District 25
Legislative Week #9

This winter, Idaho saw the price of gasoline reach nearly $3.00 per gallon, and you were not alone if you needed to sit down before you opened your utility bills recently. We have been cautioned to look into alternative energy and fuels for quite some time. The time is upon us now. Every household and pocket book is feeling the pinch of our heavy reliance upon foreign oil and diminishing fossil fuels. The Idaho Legislature is waking up to the needs and the opportunities that exist in alternative energy and fuels as well.

This week a House Committee agreed to form a study committee to spend the summer researching the opportunities and possible pitfalls in implementing a mandate for adding ethanol to gasoline. My motion in a Senate Committee sent a 2% Bio-Diesel mandate to the floor for amendment. I predict this bill will end up in the summer study committee. I also predict that we will send the coal fired electric generating plant proposals to this study committee as well. This committee will be charged with developing a statewide energy plan. This plan will identify our future energy needs as well as where we should look for that energy. This effort will set the stage for the future of energy development in Idaho and Idahoans will be able to help shape that development. I support these efforts to develop alternative fuel and energy industries in Idaho.

In Idaho, we have ample resources (not fossil fuel based) that should also be implemented as a part of that plan. For example, there are enough wind resources in Idaho to provide for the entirety of our electrical energy needs. Wind and solar energy do fluctuate and hence cannot be counted on to serve a base load, or a constant source of energy. However, with natural gas fired plants to provide for peak needs in the coldest and hottest months and hydro to provide the base load, it is incumbent upon us to look to wind and solar energy as a way out of our dependence on fossil fuels.

I am intrigued with the idea of bio-diesel and ethanol to serve our motor fuel needs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil. These alternative fuels can be produced with the crops we grow, as well as with some of the waste products from food processing. While both fuels have some challenges, we must as a nation focus our efforts on developing these alternatives. I have been exploring the opportunity to develop a co-op of producers where farmers could use canola as a rotation crop and grow their own bio-diesel fuel, which could provide fuel for their own operations. As an ancillary benefit, this rotation might provide for the diversion of acres to help firm up pricing in crops such as potatoes.

Clearly, if we are to reach some sort of energy independence, we must encourage development of solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro, ethanol and bio-diesel. These resources should all be integrated into Idaho's plan. The debate about locating the Sempra coal-burning plant has helped Idaho focus on the need to develop alternative energy within our borders. We must develop our ample resources. The planning is long overdue and I encourage all Idahoans to weigh-in with their opinion. This energy plan will set the stage for the next generation of Idahoans. It will determine the movement toward renewable clean energy or coal fired electrical generation plants. I believe that Idaho has a bright future in developing clean alternative energy solutions.

As always, I welcome any suggestions, or comments you have to offer. It is my honor to serve District 25. I can be reached by calling (208) 332-1000 or toll-free 1-800-626-0471, via email at, or by mail to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720.

Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum
Senate Minority Leader
District #25

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