In Colorado, Obama again ties clean energy to national security

President Barack Obama Thursday drew repeated applause at a private event at Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base when he called on the country to work toward energy independence, which he called a matter of national security.

“Leading on this issue is the right thing to do,” Obama said at Buckley. “Yes, it’s the right thing to do to prevent climate change. Yes, it’s the right thing to do in terms of reducing pollution. But it’s also important for our national security.

President Obama speaking at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora on Thursday. (Kersgaard)

(Secretary of the Navy) Ray Mabus has said, ‘We wouldn’t allow some of the places that we buy fossil fuels from to build our ships or to build our aircraft, to build our ground equipment. We wouldn’t do that. And yet we give them say on whether those ships sail, or whether those aircraft fly or whether those vehicles run, because we buy fuel from them.’ Why would we do that if we don’t have to? The less we depend on foreign oil, the more secure we become as a nation.”

After waiting around for more than an hour outside in the cold and going through rigorous security checks, dozens of press, two or three hundred Air Force personnel and maybe another two hundred invited guests were ushered into Hangar 909 to wait at least another two hours for President Obama, who earlier in the day had spoken in Las Vegas.

President Obama speaks to a few hundred people Thursday in Colorado. (Kersgaard)

Obama came to Colorado to expand on some of the themes of his State of the Union speech Tuesday, notably his proposals to create energy independence.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a plan for what he calls an America Built to Last, emphasizing his desire to develop every available source of American energy. He said this includes production of oil and natural gas resources. “Today, American oil production is at the highest level in eight years and last year we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years,” he said Tuesday night and again Thursday.

Obama also said the U.S. needs to “double-down” on clean energy. He said transitioning to cleaner sources of energy will enhance our national security, protect the environment and public health, and grow our economy and create new jobs. He said that over the past few years, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. In fact, he said that in 2011, the United States reclaimed the position as the world’s leading investor in clean energy.

Obama reiterated his call for an America where anyone who works hard can get ahead:

“And so on Tuesday, I talked about the job we’ve got to get done as a nation, all of us — the job of restoring the American promise, the idea that if you work hard, if you fulfill your responsibilities, then you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your kids to college, put a little away for retirement, live out that American Dream.

“That’s what most people are reaching for. They don’t expect a handout. They don’t expect anything to come easy. But they do expect if they’re applying themselves, if they’re working hard, if they’re able to overcome setbacks and obstacles and they can cooperate with the folks they’re working with — if they’re doing the right thing, then they should be able to achieve some security and some dignity in their lives. Something very basic — it’s a basic promise that we’ve got to restore,” he said.

Obama used his Western swing to unveil what he called his Plan to Advance Safe Production of Oil and Gas Resources To Create Jobs, Enhance Energy Security, and Cut Pollution.

The plan includes the sale of new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. In his State of the Union Address, he directed the Department of Interior to finalize a national offshore energy plan that makes 75% of the country’s potential offshore resources available for development by opening new areas for drilling in the Gulf and Alaska. On Thursday, he announced that the Department of Interior will hold a new lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico to make approximately 38 million acres available, with the goal of producing one billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

President Obama speaks to a crowd comprised largely of active Air Force personnel. (Kersgaard)

Natural gas development was one of the cornerstones of Obama’s 15-minute Buckley speech, from which he segued into calling for a greater commitment to green energy.

“So this morning I was in Nevada talking about how natural gas is an enormous energy source for the United States. We are the Saudi Arabia of… natural gas. We’ve just got to develop it, and if we do it effectively, then we’re going to create jobs and it’s going to power trucks that are cleaner and cheaper and factories that are cleaner and cheaper.

“The same promise is true for clean energy. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use — sources like wind and solar — has nearly doubled. Thousands of Americans have jobs because of those efforts.

“So as I said on Tuesday, I’m not going to walk away from the promise of clean energy. We’re not going to cede the wind industry or the solar industry or the battery industry to China or Germany because we’re too timid to make that same commitment here in the United States. We subsidized oil for a very long time, long enough. It’s time to stop giving taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable. We’ve got to double down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising, and Congress is going to need to act.

“They need to pass clean energy tax credits. They need to set a clean energy standard so that we create a market for innovation. These are the industries of the future, and they’re the jobs of the future.

“So this is common sense. But we’re not going to wait for Congress. We’re also going to do some things administratively. It’s why I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public lands to power 3 million homes. And the reason we’re at Buckley is because the military is doing its part. The military is doing its part, as usual. As usual. Now, it’s important for the military to do its part because we’re the largest — our military is the largest energy consumer in the world. So we can set a good example and help create an additional market for clean energy. The Navy is going to purchase enough clean energy capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year. And it won’t cost taxpayers a dime,” Obama pledged.

In an energy proposal given to the press this week, Obama said he would move forward with “common-sense new rules” to require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking operations on public lands.

This policy paper also called for new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels.

Obama pledged to double the share of electricity America gets from clean energy sources by 2035, and said he would use tax incentives as one means of getting there.

The policy calls for opening public lands for private investments in clean energy. His office said the Department of the Interior is committed to issuing permits for 10 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity – enough to power 3 million homes – from new projects on our public lands by the end of 2012.

Obama, both in his speech and in the policy paper, said the military, the largest energy consumer in the world, would lead the way in the use of clean energy and help to develop the market for such energy.

“Securing a safe, clean and reliable energy supply for our nation’s defense forces is essential to carrying out missions vital to the security of the United States. The Department of Navy has committed to adding 1 gigawatt of renewable energy produced from sources like solar, wind, and geothermal to its energy portfolio for shore-side installations – enough to power 250,000 homes. Using existing authorities such as power purchase agreements, the Navy will ensure these energy projects are cost neutral and require no up-front investments by the government,” the policy paper declared.

Former governor Bill Ritter and former Speaker of the Colorado House Terrance Carroll watching President Obama speak at a private event in Aurora Thursday. (Kersgaard)

“Investing in renewable and alternative energy sources is good for jobs and good for our national security,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter in a prepared statement. “The President’s visit to Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora highlights the role Colorado is playing in developing and growing the jobs of the future. We must continue utilizing and maximizing our traditional energy and natural gas resources while at the same time pushing forward investing in private public partnerships to develop renewable and alternative energy sources. Key to this is for the House and Senate to quickly pass an extension of the Production Tax Credit which will help maintain thousands of energy-related private sector jobs in Colorado in the wind industry. It will help lead the way in transforming how we power our nation, create thousands more new jobs in Colorado, and enhance our economic stability and national security.”

As is usual with such events, the crowd was liberally studded with bold-faced names, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, State Senator Morgan Carroll, recent Denver mayoral candidate James Mejia, former governor Bill Ritter and Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley.

Applause was frequent during the speech and as Obama made his way to the exit after speaking, men and women in khaki camos surrounded him, reaching out for a touch or a quick word.

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.