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December 02, 2008 3:23 am

Faltering economy creates slowdown in alternative energy development

Written by Tribune Staff

Along with the plunge in oil and gas prices — more than 50 percent since July — the push for development of alternative, renewable energy sources has also slowed dramatically in recent months.

However, policymakers need to continue to make the search for new energy sources a priority.

The slowdown is, unfortunately, a matter of human nature — when we don't feel the pain in the pocketbook quite so acutely, creating new sources of energy doesn't have the same urgency.

And, with creditors tightening their purse strings, money available for privately-funded renewable energy exploration is also drying up.

But, after years of rapid progress in the development of alternative energy, our elected officials — at least so far — seem committed to moving forward, if more slowly than before.

The Congressional bailout package contained $17 billion in tax credits to promote various forms of clean energy, for everything from electric vehicles to technology to capture and store carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Tax credits were extended for wind energy for one year, geothermal energy for two years and for solar energy for eight years.

President-elect Barack Obama has consistently pledged to support aggressive alternative energy development.

And, closer to home, the Western Governors' Association recently encouraged Obama to move forward with a national energy policy focused on the development of clean technology.

A recent Associated Press article said the Western Governors' recommendations include multi-billions of dollars in appropriations for the development of clean energy technology.

Those are all good signs.

Let's hope that the people we put in office, both Republicans and Democrats, continue to recognize the importance of alternative energy, even in the face of this economic slowdown.