Senator Bennet: Natural gas key to U.S. energy plan

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A sustainable energy future for the United States will include natural gas — “the cleanest fossil fuel that we have,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet told a Glenwood Springs audience Tuesday.

Speaking at a town hall meeting before some 60 people, Bennet touted natural gas as an important part of what he said is a necessary shift toward sustainable energy sources, both for environmental and national security reasons.

“I think natural gas is going to be a big part of that new energy future, as will wind, as will solar,” Bennet said.

He said it is important that natural gas be developed in a way that protects air, water and other resources. And despite concerns about the possible contribution of the state’s new oil and gas rules to a drilling slowdown in Colorado, Bennet said it’s important to recognize the roles that other factors are playing.

Those factors include the national drop in natural gas prices and the constrained pipeline capacity to transport gas from Colorado, he said.

Bennet said he has an open mind about whether a direct carbon tax or a cap and trade system would be the best way to account for the true costs of producing and consuming fossil fuel, but that it’s entirely appropriate to consider that carbon footprint.

“The idea that it’s free or there are no external costs” isn’t correct, he said.

He said it’s important to listen to concerns that addressing carbon costs could drive up electricity bills or slow down a shift to alternative energy. But he said those concerns involve essentially “a math question,” and an answer will be found that neither destroys the natural gas industry nor harms alternative energy efforts.

Gov. Bill Ritter chose fellow Democrat Bennet in January to replace Ken Salazar after President Obama named Salazar to head the Interior Department. Bennet said Tuesday he hopes not to face a primary opponent when he runs for election in 2010, because of the money a primary race would require.

Bennet has taken criticism from some liberals in his party who say he worked against Obama by joining a centrist group focusing on budget matters.

“My view is that this was a group of people that really wanted — far from impeding the president’s objectives — really wanted to deliver those objectives,” Bennet said.


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