Aug 272009
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

As a number of prominent Democrats told stakeholders at Fossil Ridge High School why they should support President Barack Obama’s energy plan, which pushes renewable energy resources, concerned area residents stood outside the building chanting “Drill here. Drill now.”

The protestors, who say Obama’s plan will cost the country jobs and money and contribute to the national recession, held signs that read “Global warming = political hoax” and alleged that the plan would hurt the state economy.

H.R. Bill 2454, which requires utility providers to reduce carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020, passed the House of Representatives by a small margin –/219-212 — June 26.

The protest was one of many organized by the Northern Colorado Tea Party, a non-partisan group that aims to reduce the far-reaching powers of the federal government. The Tea Party has recently focused their protests on issues surrounding health care and energy.

Dale Gustafson, a Fort Collins resident who showed up to the rally, said the officials pushing the plan are arbitrarily bowing to a specialized constituency.

“They’re bending over to the green committees,” Gustafson said.

The protestors at Thursday’s rally were a small cog in a growing national campaign orchestrated by grassroots right wing organizations that oppose the Obama administrations policies, which, they say, is intensifying the downward economic spiral.

Conservative skeptics of the administration show up at what administration officials call “Town Hall Meetings” to berate Obama representatives for their stance on health care and energy policy.

One CSU faculty member who attended the forum — hosted by Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, D-District 4, among others — said the bill would stimulate the economy.

Bryan Willson, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the CSU Clean Energy Supercluster, said in a phone interview later that the American Clean Energy and Security Act would “spur development” and create jobs in the renewable energy industry.

And Ben Marter, Markey’s chief spokesperson, said a local clean energy manufacturer that builds wind turbines has told Markey it has been able to add jobs thanks to the House passage of the bill.

But the picketers were not convinced.

Vickie Paulson, a Fort Collins resident whose husband owns a cattle ranch, said that, regardless of the job opportunities in renewable energy start-up companies, the measure would put her husband’s ranch out of business.

She said the corn-based fuel industry has made it more difficult to obtain ranching resources.

“He’s already having trouble buying feed because of ethanol production,” she said.

Adam Konieski, another Fort Collins resident who contributed to the picket, said the Democratic “cap and trade” legislation pushed at the Fossil Ridge rally is really closer to “crap and tax.”

“The way the cap and trade, energy and health bills work tangent to each other shred the Constitution,” Konieski said. “If the government really wants to fix the economy, they need to get out of the way.”

Over the noise of the protest chants, Rudy Zitti, a Fort Collins resident said nobody is against green energy, but that clean energy options, such as nuclear energy, are already available without the proposed bill.

“Far more jobs would be created if we were allowed to used our natural resources.” Zitti said.

Staff writer Kirsten Silveira can be reached at

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