Poll: Nebraskans ready to make energy changes

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

We knew something had to be done.

Those of us who waited in gasoline lines during the OPEC oil embargo of the early 1970s realized it would be foolish to allow foreign producers the power to pull down the American economy again.

But what happened? Thirty-five years later, we're in the same position, or even worse.

Nebraskans know what needs to be done, and they're ready to do it. The problem is, we're apparently incapable of finding leaders who are willing to make the changes needed.

That's apparent from the latest Rural Nebraska Poll, conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We published a story on it on page two Tuesday, and the complete report is available at http://cari.unl.edu/ruralpoll/

While Nebraskans overwhelmingly support aggressive pursuit of renewable energy, the Cornhusker state is one of only 18 states that have no comprehensive renewable energy standards. Twenty-eight other states require electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of power from renewable energy resources by a certain date, and four others have goals in place.

Yes, Nebraska's electrical power system is unique in being entirely publicly owned, and we do have one large wind farm in place and others planned, as well as two aging nuclear plants.

But we should be doing more.

Wind power seems like a natural for a Great Plains state like ours, ranked sixth in wind potential, and it seems to us that feedlots, compost piles and municipal waste should be easy to harness to produce methane or other forms of energy.

Tycoon T. Boone Pickens recently touted natural gas as a plentiful supply of untapped energy, and Nebraska produces more than a billion cubic feet of it each year.

We're already a major player in ethanol production, and solar energy needs only investment to make it a reality. Hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles are just beginning to appear on the market, and what's keeping us from producing that fuel using wind, solar or other alternative energy sources?

The shift to more alternative energy will take determination and investment over the long term, with no quick profits in sight. And, there will be no one solution; we'll need a quiver full of energy arrows to slay the foreign oil dragon.

But the real danger is not that we lack the determination to do so. The real danger is oil prices will drop slightly, just enough to reduce gasoline prices at the pump just enough to allow us to become complacent again.

The real danger is, 30 year hence, we'll be right back in the same old rut.

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