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MT “Harvesting Clean Energy Conference” Focuses on Rural Development

January 23, 2009

Billings, MT – Rarmers, ranchers, tribes, and rural utilities will join economic development officials, lenders, and elected officials to talk about "powering up" clean energy production in Montana. The Harvesting Clean Energy Conference in Billings this month aims to leverage the groups' combined efforts to promote the state's rich clean energy resources, including wind, sun, geothermal springs and oil seed crops.

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D), a conference keynote speaker, sees clean energy production as a rural economic development tool for the state.

"Whether it's harvesting oil seed plants on the farm, or utilizing our wind resources for the generation of electricity, it's a win-win situation for Montana and it's a win-win situation for this country."

Many in Montana are excited about the state's clean energy potential, says Sen. Tester, but some processes need to be put into place to make it all happen, and that will take work on the state and federal levels.

"We need to make sure we have the incentives to get this industry off the ground, and they've got to be for the long-term. We need to take that long-term view and start planning for the future; start planning for the next generation."

Clean energy production and energy efficiency are also being touted at the conference as "something for everyone," with economic opportunities being outlined for attendees. The Montana legislature is considering two related energy efficiency bills: one would ensure all consumers are provided more options and incentives for reduced energy use, and the other would help schools reduce energy use.

The Harvesting Clean Energy Conference runs Jan. 25 - 27 at the Crowne Plaza in Billings.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT