After the recent economic fallout, America will face a loss of one-half of its energy workforce in the next 10 years, said the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, in his economic forecast Tuesday.
“Working together we can transform our energy challenge into an energy opportunity,” said CEO James Jones, also a retired U.S. Marine Corps general.
In his “Blueprint for Securing America’s Energy Future,” Jones said that America’s response to energy challenges in the next few years will determine its role later.
Jones said that America’s future in terms of alternative energy is bright, and to fill jobs resultant of its growth, compensation to combat workforce depletion is vital. He said that the U.S. needs to develop programs, incentives and visa policies to bring in and retain workers.
The address featured presentations from both government and private sector speakers and put a specific emphasis on the contributions of the state of Colorado and CSU to the alternative energy future.
To keep up with the projected 30 percent growth in energy consumption in the U.S., Jones’s blueprint emphasized a need to diversify sources of energy including refining traditional sources such as coal and nuclear, and developing new, renewable energy sources.
The focus is on creating viable and clean energy, Jones said.
He said technologies like carbon catchers and provisions such as tax credits or breaks for efficient and alternative energy use are a vital part of a successful energy plan. He added that new ideas must coincide with exploration into the nation’s oil reserves and the construction of more nuclear power facilities.
“Now is not the time to relegate energy to the back burner,” Jones said.
Jones said a key element of a successful and diverse energy plan is cooperation between the research and business sectors.
He said CSU has a collaborative atmosphere that facilitates the interaction of research science and business.
“(Holding this event) at CSU shows that Colorado is in the forefront in leading the way,” said Renny Fagan, state director for Sen. Ken Salazar.
CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory is key in the collaboration between the university and businesses.
Christian L’Orange, a master’s student who works with the EECL, said the lab focuses on the research and development of new technology and then hands them over to companies to be put on the market.
“We’re like an incubator,” L’Orange said in reference to the process.
Jones said cooperation like this is important to make sure ideas and technology are not created just to continue to be in the incubator and “sit on a shelf for 20 years.”
Jones also emphasized the need for environmental responsibility in any comprehensive energy plan.
He said Colorado residents share in the responsibility for pushing the government towards positive environmental stewardship.
“They realized you can’t have an energy policy without an environmental policy,” Jones said.
Fagan also discussed the role of Colorado in the creation of alternative, environmentally friendly energy.
He said Colorado is leading the way in the creation of biofuels by developing ethanol resources on the eastern plains and Front Range and that the state is pioneering wind farming technology and solar fields in the San Luis Valley.
He also said that the state — Fort Collins in particular — is working to integrate renewable energy into the power grid.
Solex Biofuels, Inc. is involved in the development of alternative energy in Colorado.
Doug Henston, CEO of Solex, said his company is working on large-scale algae production as an alternative to petroleum-based energy.
Solix, Henston said, is working to get algae-based fuels, which can be substituted for over-road and aviation fuels, as well as heating oils, on the market as soon as possible.
“We’re focused on making this a commercial feasibility,” Henston said. “Colorado is a special environment for companies like Solex.”
Staff writer Jim Sojourner can be reached at email@example.com.