Gov. Schweitzer Calls for 'New Energy System' at 25x'25 Roundtable Forum

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer set the tone of the 25x'25 Montana Alliance Leaders Roundtable last month in Great Falls, Montana by issuing a challenge to those supporting a renewable energy future. "The entire world is waiting for us to act," said Schweitzer. "We need a new energy system; one that is cleaner, greener, American."

Gov. Schweitzer kicked off the three-hour forum held at the Charles M. Russell Museum on July 8, which brought together renewable energy leaders from across the state to discuss renewable energy development, challenges and opportunities in Montana. The roundtable was organized by National 25x'25 Steering Committee member and Cascade County Commissioner Peggy Beltrone, and was followed by a two-day National 25x'25 Steering Committee meeting in Great Falls.

Schweitzer, accompanied by his faithful dog, Jake, shared his thoughts on what it will take to achieve a 25x'25 energy future. "It is not a question of whether we can get to 25x'25," said Schweitzer. "It's a matter of resolve—to break our addiction to foreign oil and hydrocarbons and turn to a cleaner, greener energy." Schweitzer was the first of the nation's governors to endorse the 25x'25 Vision.

Another state leader, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), reaffirmed his support for 25x'25 by way of a message delivered by an aide, stating that he was "committed to ensuring that the goal of 25x'25 becomes a reality."

Participants heard from a panel of local experts on the opportunities and challenges of a diverse array of renewable energy resources in the state. "Montana has it all," noted Ron de Yong, director of the Montana Department of Agriculture, who served as panel moderator. Wind, solar, geothermal, woody biomass, oil and seed crops for biodiesel, and crops that can produce cellulosic ethanol are all part of the renewable energy equation in the state, deYong pointed out.

Dave White, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, wrapped up the discussion by noting the "incredible opportunity that lies ahead for the state, and the nation," and that "it will take farmers, ranchers, and everyone to help reach the goal of 25x'25." National 25x'25 Steering Committee Co-chair Read Smith closed the forum with an update on the alliance's national activities.

Following the roundtable forum, the National 25x'25 Steering Committee began their two-day meeting with a field tour that included visits to the Montana State University-Northern Bio-Energy Innovation and Testing Center in Havre; the Earl Fisher Biofuels facility in Chester; and the Henke Farms in South Chester, where tour participants learned about a new technology that reduces fossil fuel inputs by recycling into the soil carbon emissions that are generated by farm equipment.

Topics of discussion by the steering committee included review of progress towards establishing a renewable energy institute; status of the carbon and woody biomass initiatives; reaffirmation of  25x’25's role in calling for the development of a new national energy plan; agreement to engage Presidential candidates and their campaigns;  review of the Phase IV mission, goals, and major initiatives; discussion of international sustainability initiatives; reviewed status of 25x'25 state alliances and endorsed a plan to work to reengage and re-energize existing alliances and establish new ones; and agreed to establish a executive committee composed of the two Co-chairs, subcommittee chairs and current work group chairs. The steering committee members plan to meet again in late September in Burlington, Vermont.

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