In Colorado, Biden touts stimulus and new energy economy

LONGMONT– Vice President Joe Biden here Friday made a strong case for the stimulus program and the need for a full-throttle green energy program, which he said were inextricably linked.

“Some say we shouldn’t use tax dollars to provide seed money for green energy, but wouldn’t it be a bitter irony if we got off of foreign oil only to be tethered to foreign technologies in clean energy?” he asked the crowd of about 700 people at UQM Technologies.

UQM, founded in 1967, recently received a $45 million federal grant in order to expand production of electric motors used in cars, buses, military vehicles, and other mobility devices. The company raised matching funds from the private sector in order to move into a larger facility. They expect soon to be producing at least 80 motors a day as production of electric cars ramps up in the U.S.

The crowd was studded with VIPs, including Governor Bill Ritter, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey and CSU president Tony Frank and chancellor Joe Blake.

“The Recovery Act was a big deal— $787 billion. We’ve never done anything that big before, but something had to be done,” Biden said.

He said the recovery fund has been a huge success, creating millions of jobs, and providing seed money to lots of small green technology companies. “Some of them will strike out, sure, but some will hit grand slams.”

Many of the companies receiving funds, he said, are doing cutting edge work in the automotive field as well as solar, wind, and other technologies. Like UQM, he said most of the companies funded have used the funding as a way to attract venture capital funding, so that for every federal dollar spent, several more have been invested.

People have always opposed government spending. In 1860, he said, the U.S. decided to build a transcontinental railroad track. Back then Republicans were in favor of the investment, he said, while many Democrats opposed it.

“Where would we be if we had not made that investment? I’m serious. Where would we be? Where would Colorado be?”

Then, as now, he said, “We were building a path to the future.”

America’s history of innovation is what has always set the country apart, he said, but that the country has been in danger of seeing that competitive advantage dissipate.

In 2002, he said there were only two factories in the U.S. making advanced batteries for electric vehicles, with a marketshare of only about 2 percent. Today, he said, largely because of stimulus spending, there are 30 such factories, with a marketshare closer to 30 percent.

He said $400 million in stimulus funds is going to develop and build charging stations for electric vehicles. “We expect 16,000 charging stations to be up by 2012. We are committed.”

Noting that he served in the U.S. Senate through eight presidents, and that only 17 people have ever served longer, he said he is more optimistic today about the country’s future then ever before. “I’ve never been more optimistic about this great country, not even on the day when I was first elected to the Senate as a 29-year-old kid.”

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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