Ag leader calls for balanced energy policy

Jul 29, 2011
by WLJ

Smart energy policy must balance renewable and conventional sources of energy, stress self-sufficiency and avoid diluting science with politics, according to California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger.

Wenger discussed energy policy during a speech hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance in conjunction with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners summer meeting in Los Angeles.

“We are making progress in renewable energy but there is still a gap in the science and the affordability of some renewable sources,” Wenger said. “Policy makers need to make an honest assessment of the potential for renewable energy sources before imposing standards that may be impractical or impossible to meet. At the same time, we must pursue safe development of available domestic sources, including offshore oil supplies and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Wenger noted that nearly 2,000 California farmers have installed solar panels, wind turbines or other forms of renewable energy production, making California the

No. 1 state for on-farm energy generation. But he warned that renewable energy policies have also placed some farmland under threat.

“There’s a new land rush that’s been touched off by pressure to maximize solar energy development,” he said. “Solar developers look for flat land with good solar exposure, and that often means farmland. Government policy should conserve productive farmland and limit solar development to marginally productive lands.”

Wenger said smart energy policy should also place more emphasis on hydroelectricity.

“Hydroelectric energy is an important, renewable resource, with multipurpose benefits that include flood control, water supply and recreation. But only hydro facilities smaller than 30 megawatts count toward the state’s renewable mandate,” he said. “This is a case where politics gets in the way of sound energy decisions because reservoir construction has fallen out of favor. We must broaden our thinking in order to assure a safe and reliable domestic energy supply.” — WLJ