Salazar: Energy bill a good step | AspenTimes.com

Salazar: Energy bill a good step

Janet Urquhart

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar discusses the nation's new energy bill Wednesday at the Mountain Chalet. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

The federal energy bill President Bush signed last week is a good first step in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, though the legislation is lacking in many respects, according to U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.During Wednesday’s stop in Aspen on a swing through the state, the freshman senator from Colorado reiterated the message he has carried around the Western Slope. Salazar addressed about 40 area residents in the conference room at the Mountain Chalet.The Democrat touted what he contends are positive provisions of the bill while blaming its shortcomings on the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress. He also acknowledged critics of the legislation – the Western Colorado Congress has blasted both the bill and Salazar’s support of it – and ticked off several gripes of his own, including the bill’s failure to acknowledge global warming.”Some people have been very critical about this bill … you know, legislation is the art of compromise,” Salazar said. “At the end of the day, the legislation, I think, gets us down the road toward energy independence.”

But he agreed with audience member Peter Frey of Basalt, who decried Congress’ refusal to bump up miles-per-gallon standards for cars and institute them for SUVs and pickup trucks.”We don’t have the votes to get that done,” Salazar said. “The keys to the kingdom are, frankly, held by the other party in Washington today.”The bill also poses potential threats to Colorado by allowing the injection of chemicals into the ground for the extraction of natural gas and in its ambitious timetable – about two and a half years – to develop an oil shale leasing program, Salazar conceded. Colorado is a shale-rich state.He expressed doubt that the development of an oil shale program will proceed that quickly but also said he supports the research and development phase as the country looks to oil shale as an energy source.

“We need to be very watchful to make sure we don’t create an environmental disaster for our state,” he said. “It’s a resource that we should look at but that we should only develop if it can remain friendly to our environment.”Salazar said he is open to the possibilities of nuclear energy, also furthered by the legislation, but acknowledged the country hasn’t yet figured out what to do with the spent radioactive fuel.Among elements of the bill that Salazar said move the United States toward greater energy independence, he noted: New efficiency standards for household appliances, combined with new incentives for efficient home and commercial building construction, which could save 50,000 megawatts of power by 2020.

The current production of ethanol doubles to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, reducing oil consumption by 80,000 barrels a day by 2012. New investments of $6 billion are established for renewable-fuel production facilities, and tax credits will encourage the use of wind, solar and biodiesel energy sources. Tax credits are established to encourage the purchase of hybrid vehicles, and $200 million per year is allocated to retrofitting diesel vehicles to make them clean-burning. In addition, there are tax credits for the purchase of clean-burning diesel vehicles. A long-term goal to develop “zero-emission” coal is established.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com