By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
LONGMONT — On a tour of one of Colorado’s newest renewable energy manufacturing plants, Sen. Mark Udall said he is excited over the potential for Colorado to be a worldwide leader in renewable energy. The first-term Democratic senator also said the $787 billion stimulus plan signed by President Barack Obama this week will help towards that goal.
On a Feb. 14 visit to AVA Solar, a Longmont solar panel manufacturing company with roots at Colorado State University, Udall told employees that new loan guarantees in the federal stimulus package will allow their company to triple its manufacturing capacity.
“We also will further the use of tax credits for wind, biofuel and solar energy sources,” Udall said. “I think the package is a big step to make sure America leads in the production of new energy, and I believe that Colorado can have a big part in that. I am at AVA Solar because this is the future of Colorado, and is how we are going to get the state’s economy back on its feet.”
Udall repeated the belief being asserted by Colorado politicians in both parties that the state can be a world leader in energy production and jobs. In addition to tax breaks and other incentives being offered to companies involved in wind, solar and biofuel energy production, Colorado also offers abundant fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas.
“This is more and more becoming reality here,” Udall said. “This isn’t something that we just dream about anymore. It’s happening right here today. And it’s happening in Colorado.”
Although Republicans have expressed a desire to see more renewable energy production and research come to Colorado, they were not behind the $787 billion economic stimulus package that passed Congress on a nearly party-line vote last week. Calling the bill heavy on spending and light on tax cuts, Republicans have criticized Democrats for the speed with which Congress approved the bill.
Both the House and the Senate voted to approve the recovery package within hours of the 1,200-page bill leaving conference committee. Udall said that although he didn’t read the entire bill before voting on it, he understood what it would do.
“I had my team read the entire 1,200 pages,” Udall told The Colorado Statesman after the tour. “The outlines of the package had been in place for a number of weeks. The numbers changed, but not the provisions in the bill. With all due respect to my Republican friends, when you don’t like the substance of something or you disagree with the content, you can say, ‘I didn’t have time to study it.’ In the end, I just believe that we have to act. It’s not going to be perfect. But we have to act.”
Most of the funding used to pay for provisions of the stimulus package will be created either by printing new money or by borrowing money from foreign countries, creating more problems for fiscal conservatives, who claim the stimulus package could weaken the dollar and lead to hyperinflation.
Calling himself a “fiscal hawk,” Udall said he, too, is concerned about the long-term effects of deficit spending. However, he says, failing to act would pose a bigger risk.
“We are going to have to balance out the commitments that we made to find these resources and deficit spend,” Udall said. “But, every dollar that is spent will have a stimulative effect on the economy. There are some that will take a little longer to have an effect, but every dollar will have a stimulus effect.”