While the nation struggles to weather this recession, southwest Indiana has been the focus of some great economic news. Last week, Peabody Energy announced long-term coal supply contracts for more than 90 million tons of coal, utilizing the Bear Run Mine in Sullivan County.
By taking advantage of the abundant supplies of coal in our region, we have the ability to create jobs, stimulate economic growth in our area and rise up as Indiana's leader for energy independence and green energy initiatives.
Indiana has a 500- to 600-year supply of coal available for use, most of it in our own backyard. Seventeen billion tons of it could be mined today. Another 40 billion tons or so currently could not be mined, but that could change as technology advances.
Our coal is the bounty that helped build our communities generations ago, and it's a resource we're finding new, cleaner ways to refine and market.
One of the most exciting advances in the coal energy is the production of synthetic natural gas. The Edwardsport plant is an example of the ability to turn coal into natural gas.
Unlike coal, we have a limited supply of natural gas. And that supply is being used very quickly. The natural gas produced with coal is very high-quality. It can be pipelined right away and sent to homes all over our state.
Senate Enrolled Act 423, which the governor signed into law on Tuesday, authorizes the Indiana Finance Authority to enter into contracts with companies for the purchase and sale of synthetic natural gas. Producing green energy does no good if it has no way to connect to the grid providing energy to homes. This bill helps make the connection between synthetic natural gas and the consumers who use it. And it has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to southwest Indiana.
And, most important, projects such as Edwardsport and the Peabody Energy contract create jobs. Southwest Indiana is known for its breathtaking beauty, but we need jobs so families can stay here and enjoy it.
More than coal, we have rich supplies of vegetation. This vegetation can be made into ethanol. My legislative colleague and good friend Sen. John Waterman introduced a bill this year to produce ethanol in a creative way.
This is a creative way to produce green energy at minimal cost to taxpayers.
Energy independence and green energy initiatives need to be a goal of the General Assembly. Energy opportunities create job opportunities. However, these opportunities should never trump frugal spending of taxpayer dollars or infringe on voter rights.
House Bill 1730 does just that. The bill would allow governments to bypass voter input on expensive construction projects so long as they incorporate some sort of green component to their construction. Last year, the General Assembly passed voter referenda on the most expensive capital building projects.
Ironically, these green projects cost more taxpayer dollars than regular construction projects. This means the bill spends more of your money and reduces your input in the name of "green" projects.
That is unacceptable. HB 1730 is now eligible for vote in the Senate, where I hope it will be shut down right away.
There is a right way and a wrong way to encourage clean energy and energy conservation. This is the wrong way. Southwest Indiana is doing it the right way, and the rest of the state should pay attention.
Looking to the future, southwest Indiana can do even more to use the resources it has to boost its economy. And in the process, southwest Indiana can serve as an example to the rest of the state.
In my view, we're already well on our way.