Iowa Governor and the Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack spoke about “energy security” to a full audience at the Wolf Law Building Thursday night.
The 55-year-old Vilsack, elected in 1998, spoke about three aspects of energy security that he believes to “moral imperatives:” the negative environmental impacts of oil use, the economic results of rising oil prices and the effect of oil imports on national security.
“This is the most important issue in the United States of America today,” Vilsack said. “The reality is that we don’t have a choice.”
The Energy and Environmental Security Initiative hosted the governor’s appearance, and environmental law professor Lakshman Guruswamy, law school dean David Getches and Colorado house majority leader Alice Madden spoke before Vilsack’s speech.
Vilsack said energy security would be an important aspect of his upcoming presidential campaign.
“There is no issue that has as many intersecting issues,” Vilsack said, citing the potential economic, health and security benefits of renewable energy. “This is an opportunity to separate ourselves from the pack economically. The pack is catching up to us right now, and that’s where the tension is coming from.”
Vilsack said that unless the world works to reduce emissions, the level of greenhouse gases would increase 52 percent in the next 10 years. He expressed disapproval of the Bush administration’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocols, which he said would have drastically lowered emissions had the president not walked away from negotiations.
“I think a great nation stays at the table until we can work something out,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack also warned about the economic impacts of a rising demand for oil around the globe and a rapidly diminishing supply. China and India will need 50 percent to 100 percent more energy in the future, the governor said, and the oil already extracted is from the reserves that are easiest to access. As the cost of supplying oil to a growing worldwide market increases, the price will increase, Vilsack said.
“Our economy, as oil-based as it is, will struggle,” Vilsack said.
The governor also said that the country’s dependence on oil imports provides resources to countries that “really don’t like us,” and “really want to do us harm.” He said that the limited availability of oil encourages countries to make deals that benefit anti-American countries such as Venezuela and Iran and said that alternative fuels will reduce the amount of capital available to hostile countries.
Vilsack said that Americans must focus on conservation and alternative fuels in order to increase the energy security of the United States. He said he wanted to increase the federal government’s involvement in developing initiatives for both issues. He would start by ordering American car companies to double their fuel efficiency by 2016.
If Americans started relying on ethanol biofuels, farmers would benefit from increased demand for corn and switchgrass – a grass that the governor said would produce six times the amount of ethanol per acre than corn, although a DOE pamphlet estimated the grass to produce just three times as much ethanol.
Doug Vilsack, the son of the Iowa governor and a second-year CU law student, said that energy security would be a key issue in his dad’s campaign.
“(Energy security) has long roots in other issues,” the younger Vilsack, 25, said.
Although the large majority of audience members were Boulder citizens, a smaller number of students attended the event.
“I think (energy security) is a strong platform. I found it very interesting,” said Chris Simmons, an 18-year-old freshman studying political science.