Apple has started selling their new iPad, a small tablet computer that connects to the Internet. Some Apple fans have lined up three days before it goes on sale, camping out for the privilege of being one of the first to try the new technology. This is yet another device that seeks to replace printed books, magazines, and newspapers. We’re increasingly living in an electronic world, a world that will require increasing amounts of electricity to power it.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that U.S. power consumption will grow by 1 percent annually through at least 2035. Even with more energy efficient devices and advanced batteries, the sheer proliferation of devices requiring electricity means there will be increased demands for power.
I believe that we must meet this demand with an energy policy that carefully balances environmental and national security concerns with the need for cost efficient power. I think this means looking to a variety of renewable sources, while recognizing our need for traditional, fossil fuel-based sources.
There’s been a lot of movement in our community to develop clean, renewable energy sources. This week, Epcot Crenshaw Corp. announced that they will work with West Lampeter Township to build a new manure-to-energy facility. Some 30 farms could participate in the program, donating manure and receiving electricity and odorless fertilizer in return. A great advantage of this facility is that it keeps manure from draining into our streams and rivers, cleaning the Chesapeake Bay so that future generations can enjoy its natural resources.
Additionally, new solar facilities are being built in Chester County and Southern Lancaster County and Turkey Hill is building a new wind facility to power their dairy. However, I do not believe we can only rely on renewables, many of which do not supply consistent power.
One form of reliable generation I support is nuclear power. Countries such as France and Japan get a considerable percentage of their power from nuclear generation and they reprocess fuel to cut down on waste. I’m encouraged to see the President lend support to building new nuclear facilities in Georgia. The Secretary of Energy is also supporting the development of smaller nuclear reactors that could be manufactured at a central facility and shipped to an installation site.
Personally, I’ve introduced the SAFE Nuclear Act to streamline the permitting process for nuclear power generation. I believe that we can cut down on the time required to approve new facilities without bypassing any important safety requirements.
However, even increased nuclear power will not be enough to handle all of our future electricity needs. Fossil fuels will continue to play an important role for decades and we need to consider how to increase domestic production.
I believe that Pennsylvania will play an important role in meeting demand by developing gas in the Marcellus shale. Just a decade ago, the gas trapped in the shale was not considered much of a resource. Rapid and largely unforeseen advances in technology mean that we can unlock the shale and generate decades of clean natural gas.
We also need to look to our coastal regions for new oil and gas supplies. This week, President Obama announced that he would move to open certain areas of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Alaskan coastline to exploration. I’m concerned about many of the remaining restrictions and roadblocks the Administration leaves in place, but I think it’s a small step in the right direction.
Our future energy demands are great and we need bipartisan support to move our country forward. Like many of our nation’s problems, the move toward clean domestically produced energy needs cooperation across party lines. I’m proud to have Rep. Jason Altmire’s (D-PA) support for the SAFE Nuclear Act, and when the President moves in the right direction I will be there to applaud and encourage him.
We don’t know what incredible new device people will line up to buy two decades from now. But if it uses electricity, the best way to power it will be a sensible mix of alternative and traditional power that balances affordability and environmental protection.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R) represents Pennsylvania’s 16th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.