The federal government needs to take responsibility for building transmission lines to encourage the development of wind power in South Dakota, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said during an interview Friday with the Argus Leader.
Obama says wind power could provide up to half the nation’s electricity needs, but federal tax incentives must be extended to keep that development in the United States.
“If we don’t get those tax incentives, those federal tax breaks in place, then you’re going to see a whole lot of wind power generation and industry moving to Europe,” he said. “It’s already starting to happen.”
Obama made his first campaign appearances in South Dakota on Friday with visits to Watertown and Sioux Falls. He called for major investments in renewable energies, including cellulosic ethanol and wind power.
Following his speech at the Sioux Falls Arena, Obama spent a few minutes with the Argus Leader discussing topics of interest to South Dakotans. Here’s what he said:
Question: You’ve done very well in contests in this region of the country, but you’ve struggled in other rural areas of the country. Why has the Upper Midwest been more receptive to your message than other rural areas?
Answer: You know, it’s an interesting question. I do think there is a Midwestern sensibility. As I said, my grandparents and mother came from Kansas. I live in Illinois.
I find that in places like Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, and Minnesota and Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, we do really well. And I’m sure that some of that just has to do with an affinity.
I think people sense that I’m not an ideologue, that I believe in common-sense practical solutions, that I’m not somebody who calls people names or is interested in the slash-and-burn style of politics, but rather is trying to bing people together. I think that suits how a lot of people feel here.
Q: Does the federal government have a role in promoting wind power, and if so, what is that role?
A: Absolutely. The main thing we need to do short-term is pass the tax incentives that will expire in December.
If we don’t get those tax incentives, those federal tax breaks in place, then you’re going to see a whole lot of wind power generation and industry moving to Europe. It’s already starting to happen.
That’s one of the reasons I supported the energy bill that was passed a year ago. Not because I was thrilled with some of the provisions. In fact, I tried to get some stripped out – like tax breaks for oil companies. But because it represented a huge expansion and investment in wind energy.
I want to put $150 billion over the course of 10 years in research around wind, solar, biodiesel, advanced technology for more fuel- efficient cars. And we can pay for it by charging polluters who are helping to contribute greenhouse gases. That, I think, is not only good for the environment, not only good for our national security because over time we’ll reduce our consumption of foreign oil.
But it’s also a terrific tool for economic development, especially in rural areas and places like South Dakota, where we could generate as much as half, the equivalent of half of the electricity needs of the United States, just from wind power here in South Dakota.
We’re going to have to rebuild a grid though. And that’s also going to be an enormous undertaking, an infrastructure project for the federal government. The state alone cannot do that, so that we have the distribution systems to get wind power to the ultimate consumer.
Q: So you are saying there’s a role for federal dollars, federal money, in creating transmission lines to get the wind power out of this region?
A: There is no doubt. That should be part of a comprehensive energy strategy.
Q: Early on, (former South Dakota Sen.) Tom Daschle provided your campaign with what was regarded as the premier fundraising list in Democratic circles. How much of your initial fundraising success came from that list?
A: You know, I have to admit that I didn’t keep track. Tom was helpful. But the truth is, we didn’t take PAC money, we didn’t take lobbyist money.
A lot of the big donors went with Hillary early, as opposed to with me. So we really had to build a grass-roots fund-raising infrastructure, and that’s what’s sustained us. The reason we’ve been able to run this long campaign is we’ve got 1.5 million donors. And they are writing $25 checks and $50 checks, sometimes monthly. They work it into their budget.
There’s enormous loyalty. They end up volunteering along with contributing money. And that’s how change actually happens. And that’s how change actually happens, whether it’s creating universal health care, or protecting Social Security, or making college more affordable. When you’ve got the American people activated like that, they will hold Congress accountable, they will hold a president accountable, and who knows, they may be able to get a president elected as well.
18 May 2008
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