Americans have always known that actions speak louder than words, and that lesson couldn’t be more true than right here in Utah. Just look at our history. When the pioneers began settling Utah in the 19th century, their survival depended on being able to work together, focus on a common goal, and get the essential things done. While the challenges modern Utahns face are very different from those our forefathers faced, we still confront problems by looking for positive results instead of pleasant rhetoric.
That approach continues to pay dividends. Recently, Utah was awarded over $14 million by the Department of Energy to begin work on new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, with another $21 million on the way. Utah received this grant money because of the ingenuity and practicality of our plan, developed with input from around the state, to tackle renewable energy issues. The money will increase Utah’s budget for renewable energy products over 100-fold, helping us maintain the pristine beauty of our environment, cut our energy costs, and create jobs here in Utah. Just a few weeks ago, Utah installed its largest photovoltaic solar panel farm in the state at Hill Air Force Base.
But we’re not resting on our laurels. Governor Huntsman deserves praise for his cooperation with Interior Secretary Salazar in mapping out areas of the state where new wind and solar projects can begin. Their efforts are laying the foundation for more jobs, more energy, and a cleaner environment. These types of commonsense projects, taken up without regard to partisan affiliation, are exactly what our state, our region, and our nation need right now.
The efforts by Governor Huntsman and Secretary Salazar are just a start, however. We’ll need more mainstream, commonsense solutions if we want to address energy and the myriad of other challenges we currently face. That’s why in August, leaders from around the Rocky Mountain West will be gathering for an important conference in Denver. The 2009 Western Conference, hosted by Project New West, will bring together regional leaders to discuss issues ranging from immigration to energy, from the environment to new jobs, from education to infrastructure.
Everyone knows we’re in the middle of tough times. Our economy is struggling, our health care system is failing, and our environment is under threat. If we want to solve these problems, we’ve got to do what we as Utahns and Westerners have always done: band together and take on the big challenges, without waiting around for someone to do it for us. We can’t afford to sit around and wait for Washington to tell us what to do. That’s why this conference is so important. It’s an opportunity to find real answers, outside of the Washington spin-zone.
I’ll be there, and I’ll be bringing along Utah’s proud tradition of giving practical, no-nonsense answers to tough questions. I’ll be focused on doing what works, no matter who comes up with an idea. And I’ll be looking for strategies we can actually put into action, not just talk about. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me as we work to strengthen our state and our region and maybe even to bring our Western solutions to the whole country.