Dean proposes energy efficiency in Iowa campaign stop

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is calling for a comprehensive renewable energy plan that includes a massive wind project in the Midwestern region of the United States.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports about Dean’s plan from Davenport, Iowa:

(Sound of crowd greeting Dean) “We want Dean! We want Dean!”

(Kinzel) About 100 enthusiastic supporters greeted Dean as he arrived in Davenport, Iowa to participate in a special forum hosted by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin has offered to hold this kind of forum for all nine Democratic presidential candidates.

Roughly 200 people attended the forum which took place in a two-story atrium located along the riverfront district of the city. Dean’s visit to Davenport capped a three-day Iowa trip that included a candidates’ forum and several trips to local colleges. Dean is working hard to win the support of college students to help give his campaign an army of volunteers in the fall.

Dean reiterated his now familiar campaign theme: the Democrats must stand firm on their traditional key issues and offer a clear alternative to the policies of President Bush. This means opposing the president’s tax cuts and using that money to provide health care to all Americans, improve education programs and rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Dean is also proposing a sweeping renewable energy program that is designed to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil. One of the keys to this proposal is the construction of new power lines across the heartland of the country to deliver electricity generated by a massive new wind energy project:

(Dean) “The transmission network from the Midwest to the big cities of Chicago and Denver and Dallas and Minneapolis is inadequate it needs to be upgraded. There’s enormous capacity for wind energy, there’s a ridge that goes through the Dakotas all the way down into Oklahoma. There’s a huge amount of wind energy that we don’t tap and we should.”

(Kinzel) Dean said it’s also critical to conserve energy and he said a Vermont program could serve as a model for the rest of the country:

(Dean) “We’re not doing anything about oil conservation and we’re not going to as long as we have this particular president from Texas sitting in the White House. In our state we have the seventh highest electric rates in the country because we come from New England. And New England’s got all the high rates and Hawaii, now California, has joined us. But in our state our bills are only 22nd in the country. Why is that? Because in our state we take a little piece off of everybody’s energy bill and we hire a group of people called an energy efficiency utility and their jobs is to go around to farms and houses and businesses and show them how to save electricity. That’s what you can do with conservation.”

(Kinzel) Dean told the crowd, many of whom say they plan to participate in next January’s caucuses, that he can defeat President Bush in the 2004 election by offering the country some important choices:

(Dean) “What we’re going to say is, you have a choice Americans. You can have the president’s tax cut or you have can health care that can never be taken away. You can have the president’s tax cut or you can fully fund special education so class size can go down, your property taxes can go down. You can have the president’s tax cut or you can have back the 20% of the federal highway grants that the president cut to every state this year because he couldn’t manage the money. Now if you put it that way, most of the people are going to say, ‘Well I’d rather have the roads, the education and the health care because I didn’t get the president’s tax cut.'”

(Kinzel) Dean promised the gathering that if they help him win the Democratic presidential nomination that he’ll run a campaign against President Bush that will make them proud to be a Democrat.

Dean plans to be in Iowa several weekends every month between now and next January. That’s when the first vote for the Democratic presidential nomination will take place.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Davenport, Iowa.

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