GRAND JUNCTION – While economic policy dominated Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech to supporters at rallies in Grand Junction and Pueblo on Monday, he also sought to distinguish himself from his Republican opponent John McCain on issues of particular interest to the Colorado electorate including alternative energy sources and water.
“For the sake of our economy, our security and our planet, I will set a clear goal as president that within 10 years we will eliminate the oil we import from the Middle East – we will do it in 10 years time,” said Obama, who, dressed in a starched, white shirt appeared crisp in comparison to the nearly 6,000 people who waited for hours in the searing heat to hear the first speech delivered in Grand Junction by a Democratic presidential candidate since Harry Truman stumped there in 1948.
“Now is the time to end this addiction,” he said from behind a podium set against the dusty backdrop of the Cross Orchards Historic Site where the event took place. He went on to state that although the country should increase its exploration for domestic sources of oil, that oil could not be depended upon to provide a long-term solution to the country’s energy needs.
He promised that as president he would tap the country’s natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technologies and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. Additionally, he said he would help American automakers retool to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built in the United States.
As president, Obama said he would invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in renewable energy sources including wind and solar power and the next generation of bio-fuels. That investment, he continued, would lead to new industries and create five million well-paying jobs that could not be outsourced to other countries.
“So when you hear that John McCain is talking about change, understand that he’s been against solar power, he’s been against wind power,” he told his Pueblo audience.
As for a McCain ad featuring a windmill, Obama urged the crowd to remember, “If he had his way you’d have a gopher hole there. You wouldn’t have a windmill, he has been against those things.”
McCain spokesperson Tom Kise called Obama’s remarks untrue and provided The Watch with a statement outlining McCain’s plan to develop alternative, low carbon fuels like wind, hydro and solar power through a market approach.
“According to the Department of Energy, wind could provide as much as one-fifth of electricity by 2030. The U.S. solar energy industry continued its double-digit annual growth rate in 2006,” the position statement reads. “To develop these and other sources of renewable energy will require that we rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits that provide commercial feasibility. John McCain believes in an even-handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until the market transforms sufficiently to the point where renewable energy no longer merits the taxpayers' dollars.”
Obama also challenged McCain’s commitment to rural areas.
“He has opposed every single important farm program that we need right here to make sure that farms are viable, to look after family farms in America,” he said. “Now he wants to monkey around with the water agreement that’s been made that helps make agriculture viable,” he continued, referring to the Colorado River Compact of 1922.
That agreement divides the Colorado River into Upper (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and a small portion of Arizona) and Lower (Arizona, California, Nevada, and small portions of New Mexico and Utah) basins and apportions 7.5 million acre-feet annually to each basin.
McCain came under fire last month for suggesting in an interview with The Pueblo Chieftan that the agreement be revisited to take population growth and other changing circumstances since the compact was originally negotiated into account.
“Senator McCain has been crystal, crystal clear in regards to the Colorado River Compact,” said Kise, clarifying that McCain was not suggesting that the agreement be renegotiated but rather that a conversation be had between the parties.
“Barack Obama has never represented the West,” said Kise. “The first time he learned about the Colorado River Compact was probably six months ago. So to claim to be an expert at its face is very disingenuous.”
“Colorado, you understand clean energy; you are at the forefront of clean energy,” Obama said to a round of applause. “Governor Ritter is at the forefront of clean energy, now we need Washington to be at the forefront of clean energy – and it will be when I am president of the United States of America,” he said.
But, to achieve that, he’s going to need some help.
"If you want renewable energy and new green jobs right here in Colorado. If you want a president who will protect our environment and make sure that water is still flowing into places that need it here in Colorado. If you want someone who will take on agribusiness on behalf of family businesses and is going to be thinking about rural America…" he said, "then I ask you to start knocking on some doors. I need you to start making some phone calls and to start talking to your neighbors and to your friends and I need your vote on Nov. 4.
“If you do that I predict we will not only win Colorado but we will win the general election,” he said.