Democratic congressional candidate Shane Sklar's call for diversifying the nation's energy supply shows the kind of leadership his incumbent opponent cannot provide for the 14th Congressional District, for Texas or for the nation.
Hailing the opening of the $15 million Galveston Bay Biodiesel facility, which will convert soybeans and other feedstocks into fuel, Sklar emphasized that "renewable energy projects ... promote clean air, energy security and economic growth.
"When I am in Congress, I will fight to make sure Texas farmers and entrepreneurs are on the cutting edge of renewable energy technology," the young Democrat pledged.
Given how longtime U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's narrow reading of the U.S. Constitution restricts what he thinks Congress can do, it is impossible to expect such leadership from "Dr. No."
Yet Sklar's words - and concrete actions to implement them - are exactly what the country needs now to expand its renewable energy supplies and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, particularly oil imported from politically difficult regions of the world such as the Middle East.
As Sklar well understands, the need to expand the nation's renewable energy supply presents an incredible opportunity for Texas.
A news release from the Democratic candidate "emphasized that renewable energy could have huge economic implications. ... For many family farmers, the extra income these industries generate could make the critical difference in their ability to stay on their land.
"According to the Department of Energy, wind energy alone could provide 80,000 new jobs and $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners by 2020. Tripling U.S. use of biomass for energy could provide as much as $20 billion in new income for farmers and rural communities and reduce global warming emissions by the same amount as taking 70 million cars off the road," the news release continued.
Both the geographic size of Texas and the scale of its farm and ranch production position the Lone Star State as well now as its huge oil resources did a century ago. But Texas needs forward-looking leadership, including among those who represent it in Washington, to take advantage of this opportunity to make the state a renewable energy superproducer.
Sklar believes the federal government has both a legitimate and a necessary role to play in developing the production of renewable energy. That includes funding research for technology to produce such fuels more efficiently and at lower cost.
Equally important at the local level, "farmers and ranchers are struggling to cope with the high cost of fuel," Sklar said. "By participating in renewable energy projects, South Texas' agricultural families can be part of the solution."
This is the kind of forward-looking common sense the 14th District needs from its representative in Congress.