Idaho’s future is on the table (2/1/2008)

Few issues are more important than energy, and how Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter treats funding for a collaborative advanced energy research center in eastern Idaho will help determine his legacy, writes David Adler.

The resurrection of proposed funding for the Center for Advanced Energy Research, led by local legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, reasserts the premise and promise of Idaho’s leadership on issues of surpassing importance to the nation and the world. Few issues, after all, rival in importance the search for solutions to the energy crisis confronting the planet.

The omission in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s budget of $3 million to support the center represents a failure to recognize the critical importance of CAES to the region, the state and the nation, as well as the central importance of investing in Idaho’s future.

CAES represents a key component of Idaho’s future. It cements Idaho’s status as an engine of research seeking to address the world’s energy woes. It represents an economic boon to the region. It is expected that faculty research at the center will generate some $8 million in revenue.

It represents a substantial contribution to the evolving energy corridor along Interstate 15. And it represents an opportunity for Idaho State University, the University of Idaho and Boise State University to collaborate with Idaho National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and renowned physicists, engineers and scientists from other nations.

It illuminates Idaho’s location on the energy map of the world.

The prospect of collaboration between the public and private sectors generates dreams and excitement. As a collaborative effort among Idaho’s principal universities and private businesses, it paves the road for similar opportunities and unveils new horizons for men and women with vision and imagination.

The prospect of successful collaboration among the state’s elite institutions of higher education, moreover, will spur further cooperative efforts that, all agree, serve Idaho’s education needs and interests.

And the collaboration between governmental and private entities will cement Idaho’s status as a major player in the world of energy research, including nuclear and alternative energies and battery research that are so important to advances in space exploration and automobile efficiency.

Thanks to the leadership of area legislators and university leaders, as well as intense lobbying efforts of INL, proposed funding for CAES has been revived. It now falls to Otter to make it a reality.

From the moment that any governor assumes his post, discussions about his contributions and legacy begin. Few governors in the United States will have the opportunity to affect energy research in the ways open to Otter.

In the scheme of things, the governor’s support for solutions to the energy crisis confronting mankind cannot be overestimated. The major parties — INL, the federal government and Idaho’s universities– have brought CAES to the table. The question, now, is whether the state will fully join the effort.

Idaho’s future is seated at the table, waiting to be served.

Adler is a political science professor at Idaho State University.