Letters from the Capitol

Letters from the Capitol

By: Phil Bredesen

Dear fellow Tennessean:
The beginning of this month was marked by yet another steady increase in the price of oil, as the national average price of gasoline rose to an all-time high of $3.28 per gallon. The rising cost of oil is affecting businesses and consumers alike, and it’s another indicator of the growing demand for energy.
In addition to the rising cost of fuel, the global climate shift and the need to reassess our use of energy is becoming a regular topic of discussion at the national and international level. Environmentalists all over the world are also in agreement that we have to begin to conserve energy in order to better maintain our planet for future generations.
I believe that these kinds of milestones signal an overdue need for us to begin thinking about a broader energy policy, in Tennessee and throughout the U.S.
I discussed the need for developing these types of energy policies at a recent meeting with other governors.
I wish I could say there was greater consensus, but with 50 different points-of-view, I found more hand-wringing than solid solutions. In my mind, it simply reinforced that this is one of those instances where Tennessee just needs to roll up its sleeves, get to work and accomplish some things.
Last month, I took the first step in creating a coordinated state energy strategy by establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Energy Policy. The task force consists of 16 members — experts who have agreed to help us over the next six to eight months by gathering input from consumers, businesses and environmentalists. They will develop a series of recommendations that can serve as the basis for Tennessee’s new energy policies.
This group represents a range of interests, from utilities to home builders to environmental advocates.
Also included are key officials in state government who will be responsible for implementing new policies.
I realize that energy is a big issue for a state government to tackle, and if we’re not careful, we’ll try to do too much, too soon and not accomplish anything.
So I want to work with this group over the next few months to identify some quickly attainable goals and meet them. At least initially, we’re going to tackle some low-hanging fruit.
For example, the state needs to do a better job of “leading by example.” We own or manage more than nine million square feet of building space, and have 4,800 vehicles on the road.
We need to conduct a thorough review of all our assets, and make necessary adjustments to improve our energy efficiency and conservation, whether that means major overhauls like expanding access to E-85 for our flex fuel vehicles or things as basic as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs in our state-owned buildings. If we do nothing else but tighten our own belts, then we’ve accomplished a great thing.
However, I don’t want to stop there. We need to work with TVA and its distributors to promote energy efficiency and conservation, and we need to support strategies for the development and use of the next generation of energy sources.
I believe that we have the ideal environment of people, know-how and resources to make this state a leader in the development of regional and national energy solutions. By forming this task force, we take another important step toward lessening our dependence on foreign oil, and toward providing a secure economic and environmental future for Tennessee.
If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other, please email me at phil.bredesen@state.tn.us.
Published in The Messenger 4.25.08

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