The Impact of Federal and State Legislation on Renewable Energy Development for Consumer-Owned Utilities

by Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns

August 21, 2000

Nebraskans have witnessed first hand the effect developing a renewable energy industry can have in rural areas. Our efforts to build an ethanol industry have clearly demonstrated that harnessing renewable energy for economic development can have long-term positive benefits.

For a state like Nebraska, the production of energy from wind and biomass could be another road to success. I see it as the equivalent of Wyoming coal, Kansas gas or Oklahoma crude. Each state is simply making the most of the resources within its boundaries. And for us, wind and biomass crops may be the ticket to success.

However, the impacts of an ethanol plant differ considerably from a wind farm. Just look at these facts:

In looking further down the road, inexpensive, abundant electricity from wind could be used to electrolyze water, thereby producing hydrogen — which some believe will become the "gasoline of the future." With automobiles powered by fuel cell engines expected on the market within a few years, and with hydrogen as the fuel of choice for these engines, a huge new industry could sprout on the Plains next to our ethanol plants and wind turbines. Wouldn't that be a sight for sore eyes? Talk about hitting a renewable energy trifeca! And don't forget that ethanol could also be used to power fuel cells.