A clean, energy-driven economy will create new opportunities for Virginia

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Print this page by Bernie Niemeier, Publisher

The public’s acceptance of environmental sustainability is past the tipping point.  The temporary retreat of $4 per gallon gasoline has done little to diminish the lines of consumers carrying reusable shopping bags or postpone the need to develop better alternative fuels.

Many business leaders are among those promoting sustainability. That’s a fact you would not expect given current stereotypes. Business executives are a maligned bunch.  Too often they are portrayed as fat cats, interested in little more than spending time on the golf course and in private jets or, particularly of late, collecting big bonuses.

Like most stereotypes, these fit too easily to be true. It’s been awhile since many executives have seen bonuses. In fact, business has been pretty tough lately.  The Wall Street Journal reports that 61 companies in the S&P 500 index replaced their CEOs last year.  In the first five weeks this year, 11 more were added to those ranks.

In coping with the stress of managing in a difficult economy, many business leaders that I know take advantage of Virginia’s wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities.  We have a set of robust state and national parks; one of the best trout stocking programs in the country; and easy access to mountains, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Business leaders understand that these natural resources contribute to the Virginia’s outstanding quality of life.

Virginia also is a state of diverse energy resources. Coal and nuclear power provide the vast majority of our energy needs.  Despite opposition in some quarters, these sources are being continually improved. The development of clean-coal technology, for example, is a major opportunity for Virginia to leverage the research of its outstanding universities.

After a 30-year wait on new construction, expansion of nuclear facilities in Virginia and around the country appears likely.  Despite its detractors, nuclear is the cleanest and most efficient source of energy available.  Companies like Areva in Lynchburg are poised to become global suppliers of the latest nuclear equipment and technology.

In addition, alternative fuel projects such as wind turbines and biodiesel are increasingly common around the state.

Although controversial, natural-gas drilling off the Atlantic coast and uranium mining in Pittsylvania County are also possibilities for Virginia to create economic opportunities in the emerging new-energy landscape.

Smart-grid technology, which would distribute all available energy sources efficiently to consumers, is another area where our university research can excel.

Energy will be the driver of future growth.  The good news is that energy production helps all sectors of our economy.  Power is a real product.  Research provides the kind of jobs that Virginia is well positioned to provide.

The emphasis placed on the energy sector by the Obama Administration presents an opportunity.  Virginia’s record of benefiting from federal investment is an asset we hold in abundance compared to other states.

The prospect of an energy-based economic revival is more than welcome after the failure of an economy characterized by financial manipulations, many of which had more in common with casino gambling than with job-producing industries.

At Virginia Business, our view is that investments in energy production and green technologies will be good for the environment.

Today’s executives understand the full value of sustainable business practices. We enjoy a green environment and all it has to offer, as a resource for recreation and as a new business opportunity for Virginia.

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