Virginians and energy…are we facing shortages this winter? Higher prices for home heating? Increased costs of doing business related to energy prices?

These are not issues on Virginians’ minds presently but just ten weeks ago, when the world was suddenly thrust into an uncertain future by unimaginable acts of international terror, a severe disruption to this country’s energy supply seemed very possible. Despite the waning of alarm concerning an immediate crisis, a plan to provide adequate, affordable energy is ever more important as our nation and commonwealth deal with terrorism at home and international conflict abroad.

The Heritage Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, D.C., analyzed the energy plan proposed by President Bush. Using a highly sophisticated computer model of the U.S. economy, Heritage analysts concluded that the Bush plan is balanced and provides a good long-term agenda to assure that Virginians and other Americans have an ample supply of affordable energy. The President’s plan is not as entirely effective as Heritage believes it could be, but it is certainly a bold advance toward improving the equilibrium between supply and demand. Of course, it has yet to be put into place because the U.S. Senate fiddles trying to find the courage to overcome the ossified thinking of the past. This delay is denying Americans the ability to begin the process of implementing a plan that will set the stage for a secure energy future for America. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has blocked consideration of the plan even though the House of Representatives acted on it over four months ago.

The Bush plan supports the development of all existing energy resources while emphasizing conservation. One critical aspect of the Administration’s plan is that it will put America on track to reduce our dependence on foreign energy suppliers. This will reverse the trend of increasing energy imports that accelerated during the past eight years. Americans know that the open and free trade of all goods, including energy, enables our economy and the economies of our trading partners to grow. But at the same time, we know that it is vital for the defense of our nation that we have a measure of energy security that does not leave us dependent on foreign sources whose fealty to our interests cannot be assured.

Virginia is blessed in many ways that directly relate to our energy supply. First, we have considerable coal resources. Coal has powered the economic engine of Virginia for more than a century both as a direct source of fuel for energy production within our borders, and also as a major export. In recent years, environmental extremists have led a sustained attack on this energy source, ignoring the important benefits it provides as well as the fact that new technologies have made coal increasingly cleaner to use. Fortunately, the Bush energy plan calls for increasing the use of clean burning fuels. Virginia coal is abundant, and it offers a reasonably priced alternative for heating homes, hospitals, and schools.

Nuclear power is another important element of Virginia’s energy supply and the Bush plan. Long recognized by countries such as France and Japan as a clean, efficient, and safe provider of energy, nuclear power has been under constant attack by environmental radicals in the United States for more than three decades. Every fair-minded analysis of nuclear power shows it to be a beneficial element of a balanced energy program. Unfortunately, the fear-mongering has ignored the cost-benefits, the excellent safety record, and the minimal environmental impacts of nuclear power. Virginia has an excellent nuclear power component and the Bush energy plan would encourage its continued presence, a more positive view on re-licensing issues, and the development of additional nuclear facilities. Such a policy would greatly benefit Virginians as the commonwealth continues to increase its population and economic development while seeking sustained improvement on the environmental front.

Oil and natural gas are also important elements in Virginia’s energy equation. The Administration’s plan encourages additional domestic exploration and production of both which adds to the relative abundance, cost effectiveness, and reliability of energy resources that are important threads in the fabric of our dynamic and diverse economy.

It will be another great tragedy if the events of September 11 are not enough to persuade the Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, to pass legislation that gives the entrepreneurs who create our prosperity the freedom they need to provide a secure energy future for our commonwealth and nation.