Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Develop hydrogen energy to bolster state's economy

By Bobby Harrell
Monday, August 10, 2009

In today's world, the status quo of energy is foreign oil. It is a powerful force that drives economies and enables them to grow. Yet, at the same time, a shortage or change in the price of this volatile commodity can bring economies to a screeching halt.

Oil has two absolutes. One, it is limited in supply. Obtainable oil will eventually run out. Two, it is almost exclusively controlled by tyrants who hate us and the hundreds of billions of dollars we send them fund many of the evil plots aimed at destroying our country.

In order for America to gain true energy independence and break the stranglehold Middle Eastern cartels have on our economy, we must develop alternative energy sources. As a nation, we are much too dependent on foreign oil. To address this, we must first make better use of that which we already have. As Ronald Reagan said, "What is a conservative after all but one who conserves?"

This issue of energy security is very important because of the effect it can have on the sustainability of our economy and the preservation of our way of life.

However, in the face of this energy inevitability, there are still those who refuse to address or even acknowledge its existence. For now, the energy status quo seems safe to them and they attack any alternative plan as liberal or big government.

I urge those clinging to the status quo to look back at the words of Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind. Kirk said, "The spectacle of vanished forests and eroded lands, wasted petroleum and ruthless mining is evidence of what an age without veneration does to itself and its successors."

Getting our country off of oil and on to another energy source is a change that will not come overnight and will require real leadership and vision. While it may be easier to push back instead of offering solutions, we need conservative leaders who dare to take the steps that will secure our economic future. A self-described Republican with a Libertarian slant, former Congressman turned television news host Joe Scarborough, said, "American technology firms, research universities, and scientific laboratories are still the most powerful force for innovation in the world. If our leaders could wisely focus this R&D brainpower on developing a portfolio of oil-replacement technologies the same way the U.S. government teamed with universities during World War II and the space race, it would revolutionize our economy and foreign policy for the next generation."

Just imagine how our economy and way of life could change if the billions of petrodollars we send to unfriendly oil-controlling countries were instead pumped into our own domestic energy industries. A viable alternative energy — produced by Americans and controlled by Americans — will allow our economy to grow, take away the best weapon terrorists have, and protect American lives.

Prosperity follows energy, and we will need more energy in the future if we intend to grow our economy. But we have become a nation dependant on dwindling fossil fuels. This is partly because of a lack of energy alternatives, but in reality, it is because we have lacked the determination to develop them.

The good news is that in South Carolina, we are now actively pursuing this goal of energy independence. Along with nuclear, biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind energy, hydrogen has emerged as a promising new energy source. Since the only byproduct of hydrogen energy is pure water, it is proving to be one of the cleanest energy sources being pursued. And right here in South Carolina, we are leading the country and the world in the race to develop hydrogen technology. Teaming up with private industries and our research universities, we are making substantial headway in developing this technology.

Industry is getting involved in this new opportunity and that is attracting more private interest and investments — investments that will create sorely needed jobs and grow our economy. Already, we are seeing real-world applications of hydrogen fuel cells in the market. Bridgestone Firestone Manufacturing in Aiken is converting its entire forklift fleet to run on more efficient and cost-effective hydrogen fuel cells. Television stations are using hydrogen to power some of their cameras. It is even being used to power the scoreboard at USC's baseball stadium.

This effort to move our country beyond foreign oil will take leadership and a willingness to break from the status quo ideas about energy. I am confident that the people of South Carolina have this ability and have the vision to see the thriving economic engine that rests just over the horizon.

Bobby Harrell is speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives.


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