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VIEWPOINT: Cap-and-trade would hurt North Dakota

BISMARCK -- Energy is central to the economic well-being of everyone in our country. It is absolutely central to the economic future of North Dakota.

BISMARCK -- Energy is central to the economic well-being of everyone in our country. It is absolutely central to the economic future of North Dakota.

North Dakota, so far, has been less affected by the recession gripping our country than nearly every other state. We have been blessed with some of the most fertile soil in the world and unrivaled energy resources. Those energy resources have been a key to keeping away the worst effects of the recession.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. John Hoeven and the hard-working men and women of our state, the business community and the Public Service Commission, North Dakota is a working model of how to increase our energy supply, conserve our natural resources and grow our economy. Our state is doing fine.

In fact, North Dakota is a model that Washington should copy.

North Dakota has made the right decisions and the hard choices, and our economy, while certainly strained by the national recession, is weathering the storm. Our residents are using our God-given natural resources, wonderful soil and unmatched entrepreneurial spirit to continue to move ahead.

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But the bright future we want for our children and grandchildren is threatened by events outside our state.

There is a saying that you never should watch sausage or laws being made. I have seen sausage being made, and it is less painful than watching Washington try to craft policy.

The House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation called "cap and trade." There are several problems with this bill, the most obvious being that it is not an energy bill.

States that are energy poor will profit from this bill. It also will benefit nations such as China and India, which refuse to limit their emissions.

But it will not benefit North Dakota. Just the opposite: It will hurt our state because we are a major fossil-fuel producer.

With a carbon tax imposed on our producers, North Dakota will subsidize the rest of the nation. The tax will raise the cost of production throughout our economy and put our manufacturers and agricultural producers at a severe competitive disadvantage.

So, it is not an energy bill. It is a tax bill and a bad one at that.

What is needed is a comprehensive national energy policy for the 21st century. The policy needs to be realistic, innovative and focused on the future.

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A national energy policy must contain the following pillars.

n Recognition that fossil fuels are here to stay. Oil, coal and natural gas are opportunities for our nation and North Dakota.

n Renewable energy goals must be included in any energy plan. This will extend the life of fossil fuels and cut all types of emissions.

n Conservation must be achieved but without limiting economic growth or the quality of life. These goals are not exclusive. We can do both.

n Regulatory certainty must be a major feature of the policy. Investors need this to be willing to supply critical capital to all energy facilities, including those that'll be built in North Dakota.

n The bill must provide enough money for research and development to find new methods to create, transport, store and distribute energy. Much of this research can be completed right here in North Dakota.

It is clear that the cap-and-trade legislation is flawed and not only will drive up the price of energy but also will increase the price of everything bought and sold. And it'll provide no true environmental benefit.

So, the first step to a sound National Energy Policy is to defeat the current legislation in the Senate. I urge our senators to vote against the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House.

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North Dakota's energy policy is a model for America. Our state is poised to play a leading role in developing a sound national energy policy.

It's imperative that the Congress and the administration get to work and get it done. Anything less will not be worthy of America.

Kalk is a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

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