Alternatives work, with a federal boost

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There is no need to further decry the oil-slicked disaster in the Gulf of Mexico created by a BP oil rig explosion and a gushing spill that has now topped the Exxon Valdez environmental catastrophe in 1989 in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

But the realization that, as President Obama noted, the easy drilling along our coasts has been done, and deep drilling carries the kind of risk we should not have to take. In addition, there is no doubt our dependence on foreign oil has cost us dearly, both in terms of dollars and lives, in the Mideast and elsewhere.

The good news, however, is that a serious effort on the part of the federal government -- yes, the government so many love to hate -- has spurred alternative energy projects and innovative research around the country. Part of that is from the economic stimulus package designed to help us out of a deep recession, and this aspect of the funding is likely to have the furthest reaching positive effect.

As many know, solar electricity generating facilities are proposed in Pownal and in Bennington, as well as in Berkshire County, Mass. These proposals are only a few of the hundreds proposed through New England and beyond, most of which seek to benefit from federal incentives. In addition, the entire alternative energy sector is booming with enthusiasm and innovation. That includes wind projects in this region, the large scale Cape Wind project off Cape Cod and huge facilties in other sections of the country. Biomass and other methods of power or heat generation also are proposed here and in every other region.

Many in the United States have long wondered how we could sit back and allow the Europeans and those in Asian countries to take over the alternative energy industry, both in terms of research and development and production of equipment. All while we were sending so many of our dollars to the Mideast and elsewhere for foreign oil.

Spending even a small fraction of what we pay for foreign oil annually to boost alternative energy research, development and production would have greatly reduced our dependence on fuels that are increasingly hard to secure, harder to pay for and embroil us in bloody conflicts around the world.

How can it not be worth it to spend whatever it takes to make this historic switch. The nation got off to a good start on alternative energy and conservation funding during the Carter administration but has since lost its way. Maybe this time will provide an alternative outcome.



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