Wyden asks OSU students to take the lead on renewable energy
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who took over this year as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, talked energy policy with a group of Oregon State University students on Friday, saying it would be up to them to lead the way on renewables in the future.
“This is where you come in,” he told about 100 students and faculty at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center. “We’ve got an opportunity now for a very significant addition to our renewable energy arsenal, starting with geothermal.”
Noting that roughly 40 percent of geothermal generating capacity is on public land, Wyden told the group he has introduced a bill to make geothermal leases easier to get.
The senator praised OSU’s work on wave energy and other clean power technologies and encouraged the students to advance the science further.
“Oregon’s really out in front — we practically have green energy in our DNA,” he said.
Saying the United States can’t afford to lag behind other countries in developing innovative energy technologies, he argued for enforcing trade rules to prevent China from dumping cut-rate solar panels on U.S. markets and proposed tax reforms to equalize incentives for renewables and fossil fuels. In his vision of the future, Wyden said, Americans will be able to choose from a varied menu of energy sources.
“One day outside Corvallis,” he predicted, “you’ll be able to pull into a filling station with your vehicle — note I didn’t say gas station, but filling station — and you’ll have access to four or five different types of energy.”
He also raised the issue of America’s natural gas boom and the rush by energy companies to build export terminals, including some in Oregon. And while he painted himself as a staunch supporter of foreign trade, Wyden said we should not be in any hurry to send this energy resource overseas.
Low-cost natural gas, he argued, could entice U.S. multinationals to bring some outsourced manufacturing jobs back home. It could also help supply baseload power for the nation’s electrical grid while we continue to develop renewable energy sources.
“I think you’ll see our committee, certainly in the next several months, produce a policy to address this,” he said.
Water and timber policy also came up for discussion.
Wyden noted that his committee will hold hearings this month on the Klamath Basin water issue, which he called “a poster child for the fight for fish, energy, water and agriculture.”
He also claimed to be building support for his bill to increase the timber harvest on Oregon’s O&C lands while maintaining environmental protections.
Warning that no one involved would get everything they want, Wyden insisted that a reasonable compromise was possible on both issues and suggested he would use his clout as committee chairman to make that happen for his home state.
“A lot of these problems have been going on for decades now, and we haven’t had someone from Oregon as chair of the Natural Resources Committee,” he said. “Well, I’m going to see if we can do something about it.”
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-758-9529.