PARK CITY — Responsible development of Utah's abundant natural resources is key to helping the state pull itself out of the economic downturn, according to Gov. Gary Herbert.
But another speaker at Friday's annual Utah Mining Association conference in Park City, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was decidedly pessimistic about the direction of America's energy policy.
Herbert said the Beehive State "will be at the forefront of what has been called the 'energy makeover' of our country."
"Energy development is critically important to us," he said.
He commented that developing energy from Utah's natural resources can be done in ways that do not have a major negative impact on the environment.
"All of us know the importance of taking care of our home," he said. "We're going to make sure we address the energy-development possibilities in appropriate ways … respecting the need to have a good, clean environment."
Herbert said that he understands that industry and government have a responsibility to be "good stewards" of the Earth, but not at the expense of economic growth.
"I don't believe that developing our energy resources and being good, environmentally sensitive stewards of the Earth are mutually exclusive ideas," Herbert said. "We can do both, and we will do both."
The governor said that mining has brought 1,300 new jobs to the state's economy from June 2008 to June 2009 — an increase of 10.5 percent.
He said that continuing to foster a business-friendly climate in the state will also remain a top priority. Promoting further development of non-energy-related natural resources is key to a prosperous state economy, he added.
"All 29 of our counties in Utah have some form of non-energy mineral development going on," he said. "That's the sector that's growing."
Herbert said "virtually everything … that sustains us as a people comes from the Earth," which puts mining in a position of particular importance regarding the state's energy and economic future.
While Herbert spoke with a bit of optimism about the possibility of economic growth and being environmentally responsible, Bishop admitted was he more downbeat during his comments to the audience of about 200 people at The Canyons Resort.
"I'm sorry about being negative, but I am very disturbed and I'm very nervous and I am negative about what we've been doing for the last six months," he said during his presentation.
Bishop said he worries that recent U.S. House approval of the American Clean Energy Act could, if eventually enacted into law, cost Utah thousands of jobs and increase energy costs to taxpayers here and around the country.
"A family is going to pay $420 more (annually) for their energy than they are now," he told the Deseret News. "And it hits specifically hard in the mountain states, the Great Lakes states and the South."
He said a better alternative would be for the government to focus on increasing the nation's overall energy supply — including using more fossil fuels and renewable or supplemental sources — and using that energy to expand the economy.
"We want to have the new types of supplemental energy. That's good. But you have to have a way of funding that," Bishop said.
"If you increase our effort to grow (the supply of) fossil fuel (domestically) … we (would then) have our economic independence, we have our political independence, and we can use the royalties to fund the supplemental energy effort."