Dodd ends N.H. campaign swing with call for energy independence
At the end of a four-day New Hampshire tour, the presidential candidate delivered a speech titled "The New American Prosperity" to a small crowd at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The speech, which he rolled out in Washington, D.C., last Thursday, links energy policy with national security -- a theme of growing importance throughout the Democratic field.
"Our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels is one of our biggest problems -- a problem that impacts our health, our environment, our national security, our competitiveness," Dodd said. "But breaking that dependence is our single greatest opportunity -- for a brighter, greener, healthier, more prosperous and secure future."
Dodd proposed a plan designed to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent in the next 50 years, a goal he said was feasible with the right political leadership -- namely, his.
If elected, Dodd said he would increase car mileage standards to 50 miles per gallon and, through tax credits and rebates, make hybrid cars affordable for all. "In a Dodd administration," he said, "being wealthy will not be a prerequisite to being green."
The senator called for a "corporate carbon tax," which he said would "eliminate the last incentive there is to pollute" and generate more than $50 billion a year. That money would be invested in alternative energy research and finding new ways to dispose of nuclear waste.
"An America that taxes the big polluters will have less pollution, more innovation and more freedom. It's that simple," he said.
Dodd addressed nuclear energy head-on during a question-and-answer session following the speech.
"I will not take nuclear power off the table," he said. "If we're going to deal with global warming, we're going to have to deal with the grid."
When asked specifically about Vermont Yankee's license renewal following the event, Dodd said he could not comment on a specific plant, but argued that nuclear energy may be necessary to adequately deal with global warming.
"There aren't many options at this point," he said. "There are issues, obviously, with waste. The French are doing some interesting things with nuclear. There are things developing all the time. We're better managing today than we were 15 years ago with waste, with these heavy dry casts."
Dodd lives a mile from Connecticut Yankee -- the nation's oldest power plant, which is now being decomissioned -- and said he understands the issue well.
"If you're truly interested in reducing, as we should, the use of fossil fuels and nonrenewable sources of energy, then you've got to have that option on the table at least for consideration. And I don't retreat at all from serious problems with waste and transportation."
Throughout the speech Dodd argued that dependence on Middle Eastern oil posed a grave threat to national security.
"We are fighting terrorist organizations with one hand and financing their supporters with the other to the tune of $300 billion a year," he said.
As president, Dodd would host an "international global warming summit" that would go above and beyond the Kyoto Protocol, he said. Using research and technology as a tool of diplomacy, he said he would encourage the global community to pool its resources and innovation.
"By insisting upon sharing the same renewable energy technologies that will make America energy independent, never again will nations be dependent on oil bribes from Iran's Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Chavez," he said.
Though Dodd spent much of the event on energy policy, he touched on several other key issues, interrupting himself at the start of his speech to praise New Hampshire's move toward allowing civil unions. "I just want to congratulate members of the New Hampshire Legislature and Gov. John Lynch," he said. "It's a proud moment for the state. It's shown real leadership in the country."
Lynch announced last week he would sign a bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples. The bill is expected to be approved by the state Senate this week.
Dodd said he would bring fiscal responsibility to the White House while increasing the federal government's contribution toward education.
"In the 21st century, we can't let anyone slip through the cracks," he said.
He also called for an end to the Iraq war -- pointing out that he is the only presidential candidate to publicly support a Senate bill that would withdraw most American troops from the country by March 2008. He argued that a military solution was unreachable without political reconciliation, which he said was far from happening.
"The Iraqi people are not coming together as they've had the opportunity to do so," he said. "The Iraqis need to know that our patience has run out on this."
Dodd, who voted for the resolution permitting the use of force in Iraq, accused the Bush administration of presenting false reasons for going to war and for "cooking the books." He said America would never be in Iraq were it not for the country's tremendous oil reserves.
"If Iraq was producing turnips, we wouldn't still be in that place," he said.
Though Dodd is trailing in early polls and first quarter fundraising reports, he sounded optimistic about his chances in the New Hampshire primary, and he even launched a subtle dig at his two chief opponents -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.
"In 2008 some people say we need experience and others say we need hope. I say we need both," he said.
Paul Heintz can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254.2311, ext. 275.
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