Our nation generally does not see the future coming and plan ahead. For instance, Japanese auto makers had no trouble stealing the U.S. car market, because Detroit couldn't see the future demand for well-made, affordable vehicles that get more miles per gallon of gas.

Another example is wind energy. Denmark foresaw the potential of wind power, and it now controls one-third of the market for those components.

Oregon has a singular opportunity to capture the potential of an emerging energy source: Ocean waves. Oregon State University physics Professor Annette von Jouanne is in the forefront of wave energy research. She spoke to the Columbia Forum last Thursday evening.

The potential for electricity generation off the West Coast is exceedingly large. Prof. von Jouanne said that seven proposed wave energy sites off the Oregon Coast would take our state halfway toward the goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. A site in waters off Astoria is among those proposed.

Massive coordination and partnership is what makes a huge scheme like this come together. It is essential that the federal government show more foresight and initiative regarding wave energy than it has on other fronts.

Like similar technology aimed at capturing tidal energy, wave-based power generation must take into account the concerns of fishermen and be designed to avoid harming marine life. Addressing these concerns while developing mechanisms that survive harsh North Pacific environmental conditions will be a daunting but not insurmountable engineering challenge.

The Oregon Legislature is considering a $38 million investment package for wave energy development, according to state Rep. Deborah Boone. This is a good start, but it is only a start.

If this project isn't near the top of the to-do list of Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, it should be. Ditto for Congressman David Wu. OSU's leadership on this issue is laudable, but our entire nation's future hangs in the balance as we come up with new ways of making electricity.


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