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My Turn: In Syrian crisis, proof of the need for home-grown energy

The conflict in Syria and the wider implications of regional unrest pose still another “real world” threat to U.S. energy security. While Syria is not a major oil producer, the civil war there could spill over to affect oil supplies in other countries in the region. And that could lead to continued volatility in the price of oil, which reached a two-year high of $112 per barrel last month.

The Syrian conflict is not the first warning sign that our conventional approach to energy security makes us vulnerable to events far beyond our shores and, most times, our control. The math is not difficult when estimating the dependence the United States continues to have on oil supplies from unstable and often hostile regions of the world. Despite increased domestic production, we continue to import a vast amount of oil from countries with sometimes tenuous relations with the United States, including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia. Our national energy security does not just stem from our reliance on oil and the global geopolitics surrounding it. There are market and pricing vulnerabilities inherent in any fossil-fuel-driven economy – the currently cheap price of natural gas notwithstanding. That’s why it remains critical that this nation stay on the course toward a wide energy strategy that includes full development of renewable energy resources.

Properly scaled biomass, wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal technologies offer the distinct benefit of greater energy security, along with significant boosts to the economy through the creation of new jobs. And these new sources produce far fewer emissions than fossil fuels, resulting in cleaner air and climate stabilization, which, in turn, lowers U.S. health care costs by billions of dollars.

Here in New Hampshire, more than 50 percent of homes still heat with oil and other petro-fuels like propane, much of it refined from imported sources. We export nearly $1 billion of New Hampshire wealth each year due to this petro-dependency. We have biomass (pellets, chips, wood), solar and geothermal businesses poised and ready to help homeowners and businesses transition to renewable energy and fuels, saving money on heating bills and keeping our fuel dollars circulating in our economy. Yet most New Hampshire residents have difficulty making the connection between their own energy use and the geopolitics of oil that threatens our economy and national security.

I long for the day when we have no national security interest in the Middle East. New Hampshire residents can hasten the arrival of that day by choosing a local, renewable heating option over imported oil. You will save money, grow our economy and make America stronger by this simple act.

(Charles Niebling of Boscawen is a partner with Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC in Antrim.)

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