Senate candidate visits U to tout energy policies

by Cati Vanden Breul

The United States spends $200,000 a minute on foreign oil, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar told a group of supporters Monday in Coffman Union.

Klobuchar, who is serving her second term as Hennepin County attorney, decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat after Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton announced he would not seek re-election in 2006.

Klobuchar’s speech at the University marks the announcement of her first big policy initiative, said Charlie Poster, a University alumnus and campaign staff member.

Poster said that over the next year, Klobuchar will be out in the community talking to people and sharing her ideas on topics including renewable energy, education and health care.

Poster said Klobuchar chose to speak at the University because of its research capabilities and the role it could play in advancing the field of renewable energy.

“What she’s hoping is that the progress made here at the U will translate into better energy resources and policies for the country,” he said.

Klobuchar said the federal government has not done enough to address rising energy costs and U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East.

“Our growing dependence on foreign oil threatens both our economy and our national security,” Klobuchar said.

She said the federal government needs to set standards for renewable energy use ” such as Minnesota’s standard that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol ” and allocate more funding for energy research.

The advancement of alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power in the United States would create jobs and strengthen the economy, Klobuchar said.

Minnesota and the University are at the forefront of energy research and have an opportunity to move forward, Klobuchar said.

In 2003, the state Legislature approved $20 million for renewable energy research at the University.

Approximately 225 faculty members, research scientists and students are involved in the University’s Initiative for Renewable Energy Research and the Environment, said assistant director Todd Reubold.

The wind turbine on the Morris campus is one of more than 100 projects researchers have worked on or are involved in.

The initiative has state funding through 2008 and continued support is being sought from the federal and state governments for future research, Reubold said.

He said federal funding of energy research has not increased much over the past few years and he hopes politicians like Klobuchar, who speak out on the issue, will be heard.

“Hopefully it will translate into additional research dollars,” Reubold said.

But civil engineering professor Roger Arndt, who researches hydropower, said it will take more than talk to solve the energy problem.

“Energy is an area that is difficult for politicians to wrap their arms around; they like to have one solution and throw some money at it and think they’ve solved the problem,” Arndt said.

But it is good they are bringing attention to the topic, he said.