Oct 132008
Authors: Trevor Simonton

Joined by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former Mayor Federico Peña, Gov. Bill Ritter rallied in support of Sen. Barack Obama’s energy plans Monday at the New Belgium Brewing Co., a business they said exemplifies renewable-energy-driven and environment-friendly small businesses.

New Belgium, a company listed on the same day among The Wall Street Journal’s Top 15 Small Businesses, and its green practices align with Obama’s campaign ideals, Peña said, based on the idea that businesses can succeed with an easily achievable transformation to renewable energy.

“Obama’s goal is to make 10 percent of the country’s energy source renewable energy. These people are already close to 20 percent,” he said, outlining the fact that New Belgium received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department to make its practices possible. From onsite waste management to Wyoming wind power, the brewery utilizes a wide variety of energy-efficient production methods.

One of the most innovative programs at New Belgium is the methane-fueled electric generator, which converts methane from waste into 15 percent of the installation’s peak-load energy needs.

“Imagine if there were $15 billion in (the energy department),” Pena said, referring to Obama’s plan to increase government spending on renewable energy programs.

“The Bush Administration only spends $3 billion a year on clean energy programs while spending over a trillion on the Iraq war,” he said.

Peña, who is also Obama’s national campaign co-chair, said the Democratic presidential nominee argues that the spending on the war can be reduced, and the money saved can be re-allocated to energy programs. While touring the brewery, the three Democratic politicians saw firsthand how the beer is produced, and Hickenlooper had a few stories to share about his days of beer brewing.

“Back in the old days, I used to smuggle yeast from Germany,” he said.

The yeast, he said, is critical to the taste of a good beer.

“At customs they’d ask if I was bringing back food, but it’s not food; the bacteria are little animals,” he said.

New Belgium, known for sponsoring an annual costumed biking event, the Tour de Fat, is the third largest microbrew in the country. The visitors ended the tour with a tinge of remorse, they said, because the hour of the day kept them from being able to sample any of the brewery’s beers.

“During my campaign, we had the good sense to end the day with the brewery tour rather than begin here,” Ritter said of the Obama campaign’s failure to schedule some time for tasting.

Senior Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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