N.J. should take the lead in alternative fuel industry

Recently, I read with trepidation that oil prices have hit an alarming, unadjusted high of $92. This is almost as high as the $91 price adjusted for inflation which was achieved during the Iran hostage crisis and Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the spring of 1980.

The average gasoline price nationwide was $2.78 the other day, 57 cents more than last October. While prices in New Jersey are slightly lower, refineries and low gasoline taxes (yes there is something we are not overtaxed on in New Jersey), will not shield us from a strained national and international market.

Keeping in mind that the last severe recession to hit this country occurred amid these suffocating prices, it is time for us to seriously consider the impact. We can no longer afford to be complacent and believe that this is a minor adjustment.

Some political “Liberals” in Congress offer severe suggestions, such as unattainable fuel mileage requirements for new cars that would further threaten a weak automobile industry. Others choose to ignore the problem entirely but there is a rare opportunity here, particularly in New Jersey.

New Jersey, while still among the highest income states, is increasingly suffering from the loss of high-paying jobs and middle and upper income residents. Part of the problem is that it has been hard to attract new industries to a state that lies on the eastern end of the Rust Belt and has high costs.

In fact, possibly for the first time in history in 2008, New Jersey might face a population loss. Yet with a highly educated populace and numerous research facilities New Jersey could be at the forefront of a booming alternative fuel industry. If only the politicians would seize the day!

Well, at least one has. Wayne DeAngelo, a labor leader and conservative Democrat from Hamilton who is running in the 14th district is airing cable advertisements touting his plan for New Jersey to become a center of the alternative energy industry. DeAngelo notes that he was integral in installing solar panels to help power his union’s headquarters and how he wants to bring more high-paying jobs to New Jersey in this industry of the future that must become an industry of the present.

Democrats and Republicans throughout New Jersey should embrace DeAngelo’s ideas on making alternative energy an economic priority here before other states gain too much of a lead. Not only would it create numerous jobs in research, but it is possible that brownfields, particularly in urban areas, could be reinvigorated to produce a new generation of clean products. With a hotly contested presidential race upon us, let our state take leadership and be a place candidates want to come to tout their proposals for reform.

As the world cringes at the possibility of $100 oil and voters go to the polls to elect new state officials in a few short weeks, let’s encourage our state to take the lead in getting America out of its energy squeeze.