Salazar: Energy transformation a 'moon shot'

U.S. senator touts industry growth in state's present, future

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DNC 2008

Stay tuned to www.steamboatpilot.com throughout the week for extended coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

Pilot & Today City Editor Mike Lawrence and reporter Brandon Gee are covering the convention from Denver. They will report on issues pertinent to Northwest Colorado, touch base with Colorado Democratic leaders and chronicle Denver's convention buzz in articles, photos and audio interviews.

— U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar said Monday that coming changes to the energy industry in the American West will be comparable to America landing on the moon nearly 40 years ago.

"We are going to transform our energy economy in a major way over the next 10 years," Salazar said, particularly mentioning the development of renewable energy sources while speaking to a small media crowd at the Colorado Convention Center. "It will be a moon shot."

Salazar touted Xcel Energy's recent decision to build a 200-megawatt solar power plant in Colorado, saying such a project was unheard of as recently as three years ago. But Salazar cautioned that the industry needs to "keep everything on the table," including nuclear power and cleaner methods for developing coal.

Salazar's comments followed those of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the two spoke about the changing face of the West and covered a range of topics including immigration, infrastructure, abortion and demographics.

Arizona no longer should be thought of as a state largely populated by senior citizens, Napolitano said. By its median age, Arizona is now one of the five youngest states in the country, she said. She added that by November's presidential election, 25 percent of Arizona voters "will never have seen (U.S. Sen.) John McCain's name on a ballot."

Arizona's rising youth population is part of an overall population explosion in the state, the governor said, which calls for a different approach to immigration.

"Building a wall is not an immigration policy," Napolitano said, calling instead for an examination of underlying labor and human trafficking issues and visa reform at the federal level.

Salazar said the largest issue facing residents of the West, on "the radar screen of public opinion," is no longer the war in Iraq. Rather, it is that "the economic security of the nation is at risk today."

Salazar said 15,000 homes in Colorado are projected for foreclosure in the next two years, while costs of health care and higher education are rising. All the while, he said, America is spending $12 billion a month in Iraq.

"We can, I think, redirect some of the resources we're spending there," Salazar said.

He also responded frankly to a reporter who, after the panel discussion, commented in a Convention Center hallway that "we haven't heard much about John Edwards" at the convention.

"I think that's appropriate," Salazar said, before strongly condemning the actions of the former vice presidential candidate, who recently confessed to an extramarital affair despite campaigning largely on a family values platform.

"I'm glad he's not here," Salazar said.

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