"I am not short of titles," Robert Byrnes told the luncheon audience at the Omaha Press Club. "I am short of business."
The former U.S. Army sergeant, farmer, renewable energy businesses owner, as well as outspoken critic, joined Neil Moseman, the Director of the Nebraska Energy Office, for a briefing on the status of Nebraska's energy plan. While Moseman mainly discussed how federal stimulus funds will be allocated, Byrnes turned his attention to obstacles to the deployment of more renewable energy across the state, which lags its adjoining states, largely because of its statewide public utility system.
"Nebraska is blessed with all four renewable energy sources," he stated, "wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. We have the stuff to make this work."
But as he explained, "we have to have legislative policy in place to support these things, or it's just not going to happening." As an example, he cited the case of Nebraska's ethanol legislation. Once the state implemented an incentives plan, the industry grew to the second largest in the nation.
The problem was, he adds in caution, it wasn't within the context of a broader state energy plan. Prior to the current economic recession, there were so many new ethanol plants slated for construction in the state, that had they been built, the operators would have had to import grain from outside Nebraska.
"That kinda indicates to me that someone's not looking at the big picture."
As Moseman also points out, Nebraska's energy plan has sat on the shelf, unchanged for the last 18 years. Prior to its current revision, to be rolled out this Spring, it still considered propane an advanced alternative fuel. "It was clear that an update was required," he commented.
In his view, and that of many other Nebraskan, the state had slipped into a sense of apathy, largely because of decades of cheap, reliable electric power, generated principally from Wyoming coal.
"Nebraska public power has been the victim of its own success. With cheap and reliable power, what do we need anything else for?" he asked rhetorically. "Why should we investigate alternatives? Why should we investigate new technologies?"
"In my view that is not a... plan for the future."
The video above is part one of two parts. The second half will appear as a playable link in the video window at the conclusion of part one. A three part audience Q&A session will be available in the near future.
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