Update from the Road

Exploring Montana's energy future

Howdy from Big Sandy. Sharla and I are hard at work harvesting spring wheat on the Tester Farm. And I'm following up on pages of notes after logging more than 1,600 miles on Montana's highways last week.


Over the past few days I've been sharing my energy plan with as many folks as possible. My plan calls for drilling for more oil in areas that make sense, like eastern Montana's Bakken Formation. It calls for cracking down on Wall Street speculators who drive up the price of oil. And it calls for a serious investment in alternative energy and conservation for the long term.


The week began with a tour of Libby Dam. Then it was off to Butte, for an historic welcoming. Max, Brian, Denny and I helped cut the ribbon at AE Biofuels' newest research plant. The facility can produce ethanol made from non-food stuff like tree bark, switchgrass and even the straw that comes out the back of my combine. Montana has a lot of potential when it comes to alternative energy. It's a field that will bring good-paying jobs and opportunity to our state. Thanks to places like AE Biofuels, Montana is already leading the way.


From Butte, we headed down to Dillon for the first of three listening sessions with small businesses (I held two other listening sessions in Helena and Billings). Dozens of folks gave up perfectly good afternoons to share their thoughts and concerns. I find that the best ideas always come after working with folks on the ground. All the info I hear in Montana I take back to the U.S. Senate, where I serve on the Senate Energy Committee and try to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to craft sound policies.


In Corvallis, I saw another cutting-edge energy project. Huls Dairy Farm turns manure from its cows into electricity using giant tanks called "methane digesters." The farm even has enough power left over to sell back to the grid.


On Wednesday in Missoula, I got to see what it takes to "build green." And I saw one of just a handful of high-tech, mobile biomass generators, which basically turn forest waste into clean power.


But the most exciting part was test-driving a Chevy S10 that runs completely on electricity—and packs a punch. You step on the pedal and you don't even hear an engine. I know we have a way to go before pickups like that come standard, but it was definitely a ride into the future.


On Thursday I put together a roundtable discussion in Billings to talk energy with a bunch of community leaders. And I toured Montana State University-Billings' fuel cell project. In a nutshell, the fuel cells use hydrogen from propane to generate clean power for the campus.

And on Friday, it was back to the Electric City. I toured the refinery in Great Falls to see how Montana's refineries work and to understand some of the challenges they're facing.

It was another successful, busy week in Montana. I met a lot of new folks and ran into a lot of friends. Everywhere I went, the discussion turned to energy. Working together, we can and we will find a common sense energy plan for America. And Montana will lead the way.