Former Gov. urges nationwide move to clean energy

Photo Credit: Miranda Shroyer

Photo Credit: Miranda Shroyer

College of Engineering Dean Joseph Hughes and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter hosted an event April 8 in the Bossone Research Center to discuss the United States’s transition to a clean-energy economy. Around 100 students, professors and local politicians assembled to listen to Ritter speak about clean-energy policy, followed by a question and answer segment.

Elected as the governor of Colorado in 2006, Ritter now works as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

Ritter said that one of the major challenges of converting to clean energy is getting people to realize the future benefits of a clean-energy economy — a position supported by President Barack Obama. Ritter mentioned that in Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, the president said that he wanted the country to have 80 percent clean energy by 2035.

“This is, I think, the most important thing for my kids’ generation,” Ritter said, reminding the audience that the type of energy used today greatly impacts tomorrow’s world. “We need to get middle-class Americans to a place where they think about energy issues.”

During Ritter’s time as governor, the state rose to the forefront of the clean-energy transition in the United States. Colorado managed to increase the amount of wind power in the state tenfold while simultaneously decreasing the price of the state’s energy by a third.

Freshman mechanical engineering major David Fender said, “It was good to hear a politician’s view about where we’re going in the future in terms of energy.”

Hughes, the man behind bringing Ritter to Drexel for this talk, said he hopes that Pennsylvania can follow in Colorado’s tracks in terms of clean energy. He brought Ritter in to speak so that the student body would have the opportunity to hear one of the nation’s leading experts on America’s transition to clean energy.

“[Philadelphia] is right at the heart of the natural gas industry that’s coming to the United States. Pennsylvania has one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country today,” Hughes said. “Some people are suggesting that Philadelphia could become Houston,”

Photo Credit: Miranda Shroyer

Photo Credit: Miranda Shroyer

Hughes continued, comparing Philadelphia’s position to that of a Texas city that has recently benefitted economically from the natural gas boom.

“This community looks to Drexel as a driver of economic development in the city,” Hughes said, revealing the importance of the University’s activity in the clean-energy movement.

Drexel has a number of faculty members working on energy storage, a type of renewable energy. The University is currently working on creating their own energy using basic fermentation processes with algae as well.

“We’ve moved from an area of scarcity and volatility to a period of reliable energy, and [the current students] will be stewards of that and the earlier [they’re thinking about it, the better it will be],” Hughes said.

  • Peebles Squire

    To keep growing wind energy in the United States, we must avoid erecting barriers against reliable, affordable sources of renewable power. Wind provided over 4 percent of the country’s electricity in 2013. With smart policies in place, that number can reach 20 percent by 2030.

    The Production Tax Credit for wind power is a valuable incentive that allows wind energy to compete with more traditional, well-established energy sources. We should urge Congress to expedite its renewal. Wind power, with the help of the PTC, has dropped in cost 43 percent in just four years. Clean, reliable, and affordable, wind power is a smart piece of our energy future.

    Wind power provides jobs and promotes economic development in all 50 states, attracting an average of $15 billion a year in private investment. That money goes towards projects that can revitalize rural communities, strengthen the tax base, and protect farmers from bad growing seasons. In Colorado, manufacturers like Vestas and other suppliers in the wind power supply chain provide hundreds of jobs across the state.

    Wind energy can lead us to increased energy independence while reducing costs and pollution, especially carbon dioxide emissions. The more than 60 gigawatts of installed wind capacity at the end of 2013 already avoids nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Those offsets are permanent for the life of a project, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.

    And wind power provides thousands of Americans with well-paying jobs, 80,000 in 2012, to be exact. However, the on-again, off-again nature of the PTC must be resolved before businesses in American wind power are able to plan for the long term. Each time the PTC is allowed to expire, production contracts and jobs are threatened.

    Until a long-term solution can be found for our energy policy, we need to extend this valuable incentive so that wind power can continue to work for people across the entire country, driving our economy and preserving the environment.

    For more information on wind power, visit

    Peebles Squire