Energy leadership

The Baltimore Sun

Americans feeling the pain of soaring energy costs deserve more from their leaders. Politicians, including presidential candidates, should stop pandering with proposals designed only to win votes and offer comprehensive strategies to strengthen our economy and confront the energy challenge.

Amazingly, investment tax credits for America's fledgling solar and wind power industries will expire this December, unless Congress ends a futile debate in which Republicans are resisting Democrats' proposals to pay for the relief with cuts in oil industry tax credits. The solar and wind credits would help ensure that these businesses remain profitable if oil prices should suddenly drop.

In the late 1990s America was the leader in solar energy, producing an estimated 40 percent of global output. Now the United States makes less than 8 percent. BP Solar, a subsidiary of the oil company, recently completed a $25 million expansion, adding more than 100 jobs at its Frederick plant. But now the company has begun production of two new solar cell manufacturing plants abroad - one at its European headquarters in Madrid, and a second in Bangalore, India.

American homes consume extraordinary quantities of energy, and much more could be done to cut the waste. Next year, Montgomery County will require new houses there to meet national Energy Star conservation standards. These homes will use up to 30 percent less energy with less than 2 percent higher construction costs, county officials estimate.

Other energy solutions aren't complicated. Among them: aggressive goals for car and truck fuel economy, generous funding of alternative energy research and promoting policies that would encourage people to drive less, not more.

Proposals that keep cars on the road more, like the summer gas tax holiday proposed by Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, should be dismissed. Investing in conservation and alternative energy will mean more jobs and a healthier environment, and will slow the flow of dollars abroad that fuel our oil addiction.

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