While the Democratic National Convention took control of Denver this week, a reported 4,000 people showed up to a Ralph Nader campaign rally at the University of Denver on Wednesday. The crowd was mixed, though I would bet that none were there just for the musical guests, as was suggested in one blog.
Nader is currently polling at between 6 and 8 percent in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania, according to a CNN/Time Poll (PDF) from earlier this week.
On Thursday, Nader went to Cheyenne, Wyo., for a campaign stop. HuffPost Green got a quick interview in with him via telephone as he traveled from Cheyenne to Denver International Airport. We talked about Barack Obama, John McCain, T. Boone Pickens and why he thinks geothermal energy is the bees' knees.
HP: Yesterday at the DNC, Joe Biden said this:
"Barack Obama will transform our economy by making alternative energy a genuine national priority, creating 5 million new jobs and finally freeing us from the grip of foreign oil. That's the change we need."
Do you think that Obama will make energy policy enough of a priority and do you think he can do enough to reduce dependence on foreign oil?
Ralph Nader: I don't think so, because he has no plan to overcome the oil company and gas company and coal company opposition. When he was in the state senate he supported legislation to make $3.5 billion in loan guarantees to coal plants without any carbon-capture technology.
HP: What about McCain?
Nader: Remember, McCain and Kerry filed legislation in the Senate to accelerate fuel efficiency standards in 2005 [ed.: this was actually in 2002] and they had their head handed to them, 2-to-1... but it does show that he has a proclivity in that direction. But I don't think he's going to take on the fossil fuel companies either.
They'll push alternatives, but with nowhere near the built-in subsidies historically.
I don't see anybody in the [oil] trade press... in the least worried about Obama and McCain, where they would be the first to raise the alarm.
HP: I asked you yesterday briefly about the Pickens Plan, but I'm not sure I fully understood your position. You said that it was a good discussion-starter. Can you elaborate on that?
Nader: It expands the range of public discussion, not only because of the money but into the ads that everyone's talking about, but the fact that he's an oil man.
It raises the profile of wind power enormously and pushes the auto companies and the gas suppliers to more seriously consider conversion of the infrastructure to natural gas.
He doesn't answer the question as to why it's going to be that less expensive given the skyrocketing cost of coal, gas, oil. It's going to lead to a huge increase in the demand for natural gas, and that increase will be met by a decline in demand for electricity fueled by natural gas.
It would take World War II to convert these companies -- as they did.
HP: Short of World War II, what do you think would encourage the energy companies, the public and the government to convert to renewables?
Nader: You take away all their subsidies and tax credits and R&D and all that, all their tax subsidies. Just take it away and make it an uneven playing field in reverse. You start preferring renewables.
HP: What is the one energy source we should be looking at now?
Nader: Geothermal, geothermal, geothermal. It's gone from focusing on very rare and volatile geothermal sites to almost anywhere in the country now. As they do more of these tailor-made geothermals under homes and shopping malls, they'll start bringing down the price.
It's available anywhere in the country. They don't have to go deep, either. A few yards.
HP: The New York Times just reported that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued -- and settled with -- Xcel Energy over their putting shareholders at undisclosed global warming-related risk. What are other unusual ways the government could force energy companies to raise the profile of climate change?
Nader: The Securities Exchange Commission could do that now quite readily. Once again the New York Attorney General is doing things that the federal government should be doing. I don't know the full details though, there could be a lot of greenwashing there.