Salazar calls for alternative fuel development | AspenTimes.com

Salazar calls for alternative fuel development

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

This year’s energy bill provides a “good first step,” but the United States must do more to develop alternative fuels, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar said Tuesday during a visit to Glenwood Springs.

He also called for protection of places such as the Roan Plateau and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from energy development.

“I think that there are areas that are so special that we ought to protect them,” he said.

Salazar spoke at Holy Cross Energy south of Glenwood Springs during the Harvesting Energy Tour, held by a coalition of agricultural and conservation-oriented groups promoting renewable energy. (He’ll be at the Mountain Chalet in Aspen today at 4 p.m.)

John Stencil, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said the group lobbied for inclusion of renewable energy provisions in the energy bill that recently was passed out of Congress.

“We wanted more renewables in that legislation. We didn’t get it,” Stencil said.

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Salazar agreed that the bill didn’t go far enough.

“I think we can do better than this bill did,” he said.

He supports a push for America to obtain 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. He noted that he supported the Senate bill’s “very modest” goal of 10 percent by 2020, but the House measure dropped that goal after opposition from the White House.

Still, Salazar pointed to several measures in the energy bill that will boost renewable energy. They include:

– doubling ethanol production by 2012, which will cut oil consumption by 80,000 barrels a day

– promoting the development of new forms of ethanol created from corn stalks and other sources of cellulose

– extending, for five years, a $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel

– extending tax credits for wind energy and providing $800 million in clean energy bonds to municipalities and rural electric cooperatives

– providing tax credits covering up to 30 percent of the cost of residential and commercial solar power installations, up to a $2,000 cap.

Salazar said he went to the Senate “for forgotten America” ” meaning rural America.

“Renewable energy, from my point of view, represents one of the very best hopes for rural America and forgotten America,” he said.

Agriculture is heavily dependent on energy. But Charles Ryden of New Castle, representing the Colorado Farm Bureau, told participants at Tuesday’s event that the industry also has “a tremendous ability to produce energy” through means such as ethanol production.

Meanwhile, Salazar noted that he opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He said America imports 62 percent of its oil now and would have to import 61 percent even if the refuge were drilled.

“I didn’t think a 1 percent solution … was worthy of my vote,” he said.

But Salazar thinks Congress will allow oil development in the refuge. He also doesn’t think he can do much to stop drilling on top of the Roan Plateau near Rifle, given the Bush administration’s interest in gas development there. But Salazar, who for some time has advocated protecting the plateau top from drilling, said it’s important the impacts be mitigated through means such as well spacing and wildlife protection.

The Colorado Farm Bureau and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union organized Tuesday’s event, with help from Environment Colorado and Colorado Working Landscapes. Organizers have been traveling the state to discuss renewable energy.

Locally, representatives of Holy Cross Energy, the Aspen Skiing Co., Vail Resorts and the city of Aspen talked about their efforts to promote and develop renewable energy sources.

Auden Schendler of the Aspen Skiing Co. said such action is warranted because global warming threatens skiing, rafting and a host of other industries in Colorado.

“This state has a lot to lose if climate starts impacting us in a major way,” he said.

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