President Joe Biden shares a laugh with Gov. Jared Polis, in red tie, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, right, on the tarmac outside Air Force One at Denver International Airport during a visit to Colorado on Sept. 14, 2021. (Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline)
Joe Biden made his first visit to Colorado as president on Tuesday, stopping at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden to pitch his administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis and accelerate the clean-energy transition.
“We’re blinking code red as a nation,” Biden said in remarks delivered against a backdrop of solar panels and wind turbines. “The bottom line is (climate change) is everywhere … Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard. Wildfires threatening throughout the West and tearing it apart. Droughts and heat waves across the country devastating farmers and ranchers, and draining the Colorado River.”
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Biden’s remarks echoed the warnings delivered last month by scientists at the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose latest assessment report painted another dire picture of the catastrophic impacts that will result from continued global emissions of greenhouse gases. And the president’s sales pitch for a sweeping national effort to transition to clean energy comes amid high-stakes negotiations in Congress over Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget bill and a bipartisan package of $550 billion in new infrastructure spending.
“Here’s the good news: Something that is caused by humans can be solved by humans,” Biden said. Emissions targets outlined by his administration earlier this year chart a path towards a 50% economy-wide reduction by 2030, and achieving net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
“We can do all this, in a way that creates good jobs, lowers costs to consumers and businesses, and makes us global leaders in an entirely new industry,” he added.
Joined by Gov. Polis
Biden was introduced at Tuesday’s NREL event by Julian Aguilar, a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 68.
“Being here at NREL shows the future of our industry: renewable and sustainable energy,” Aguilar said. “When you see all these new technologies, you might think that the future doesn’t look much like the past. But one thing the past and the future will have in common is they will be built by unions.”
Also joining Biden were Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who credited Xcel, Colorado’s largest electric utility, for its leadership on renewable energy.
Polis noted that during his run for governor in 2018, his pledge to put Colorado on a path towards 100% renewable electricity generation by 2040 was dismissed by some as a “pie-in-the-sky” proposal. Just a few years later, the Biden administration has targeted net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by 2035, while some environmental groups have called on governments to set even more ambitious goals.
Meanwhile, legislation enacted by Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly over the last several years — at times, in the face of opposition from Polis — has committed the state to a 50% overall emissions cut by 2030, and a 90% cut by 2050. Those overall targets include not only electricity generation but transportation, heating, industrial sources and other sectors as well.
“Frankly, the federal cooperation and resources are a big part of that,” Polis said Tuesday. “The time to seize this market-driven transition to renewable energy is now.”
“(Whether) you work for a power company or a small construction business, everyone has a role to play,” Biden said, “and everyone is building a clean-energy future, and a stronger economy.”
The president was in Denver as part of a tour of several Western states. On Monday he was in Idaho to visit the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise and later traveled to Mather, California, where he took an aerial tour of damage from the Candor Fire. He was due to return to the White House Tuesday evening.
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