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VIEWPOINT: Empowering the state

By John Hoeven BISMARCK -- In 2001, we targeted North Dakota's energy industry for growth and development, and we built a comprehensive energy plan called EmPower ND to help us get the job done. EmPower ND got the ball rolling, and we are making ...

By John Hoeven

BISMARCK -- In 2001, we targeted North Dakota's energy industry for growth and development, and we built a comprehensive energy plan called EmPower ND to help us get the job done. EmPower ND got the ball rolling, and we are making real progress across North Dakota in all of our energy sectors.

The first phase of our plan focused on creating goals and incentives in each sector to encourage their development. This included incentives for traditional resources such as oil and coal, as well as our renewable resources such as ethanol and wind.

For example, we're using state incentives not only to produce more oil and gas, but also to expand North Dakota's refinery capacity. The Tesoro refinery in Mandan, N.D., is now taking advantage of incentives to expand and produce more low-sulfur diesel fuel. In addition, three other refining projects are being studied or planned to increase the state's refining capabilities.

The Three Affiliated Tribes is now awaiting environmental permits for construction of a new refinery, and a group in Williston has taken advantage of the Oil and Gas Research Fund we created in 2003 to explore the feasibility of building a new refinery in that area. In addition, through the state's lignite Energy 21 program, we are working with American Lignite Energy to develop a new a coal-to-liquids facility in the Washburn, N.D., area that will produce both gasoline and diesel fuel. At the same time, we are building four new plants for processing natural gas.

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Our renewable energy resources are also at the forefront of development. Four years ago, North Dakota had only two small ethanol facilities; now, with projects built and in development, North Dakota will produce more than half a billion gallons of ethanol and more than 85 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

In addition, four years ago, North Dakota was producing less than one megawatt of wind energy. With current and new developments, North Dakota will generate more than 1,500 megawatts of electricity, and that's before FPL Energy, Inc., recently announced plans to build one of the nation's largest wind farms in Oliver, N.D., and Morton, N.D., counties. The facility is expected to produce enough electricity annually to power more than 240,000 homes.

Last year, we worked with the Legislature to take our plan further by creating the EmPower ND Commission, a bipartisan group of experts, to make additional recommendations. Those recommendations include deriving at least 25 percent of our energy from renewable resources and increasing North Dakota's export capacity of electricity to 4,000 megawatts.

We also plan to continue our aggressive oil exploration to make North Dakota the nation's sixth largest oil-producing state -- an attainable goal -- and to develop more coal gasification and generation plants using CO2 capture and sequestration technologies. Other innovative energy technology we are pursuing will help us lead the way to energy independence.

Since 2001, our ongoing, comprehensive energy plan has been helping to make North Dakota a real leader in the energy field by developing all of our resources with good environmental stewardship. By providing even more innovation and incentives and developing the broad range of our energy resources in tandem, North Dakota can and will continue to set the pace for our nation's energy development.

Hoeven is governor of North Dakota.

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