Former Democratic primary candidate for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe told a Rappahannock audience of about 80 Sunday night that renewable energy could be the answer to unemployment in in the commonwealth’s rural areas by creating “green” jobs.
McAuliffe arrived a bit late, a bit hoarse but enthusiastic at a Rappahannock County Democratic Committee fundraiser at the Huntly home of Fran Krebser, where McAuliffe had come to stump for 7th District congressional candidate Rick Waugh.
McAuliffe said he has been a fan of the young, outspoken candidate ever since he heard a speech Waugh delivered earlier this year. Of incumbent Eric Cantor, the true-to-form Waugh said Sunday that “he’s chicken” for not accepting a pre-election debate. “And that phony Pledge [to America]?” he said, referring to the Republicans’ new platform statement. “It’s a lie.”
After presenting his campaign platform, Waugh had veteran McAuliffe take over. “I admire Rick for running . . . he’s stepped up to the plate,” he said, adding that he knows from experience that “it’s not easy.” McAuliffe then reviewed the current tumultuous national political climate and segued to an issue close to his heart: renewable energy and job creation.
“Thirty-eight states have a renewable energy standard” mandating “green power,” McAuliffe said, adding: “We don’t have one here in Virginia. And you wonder why business is going to [other states].”
Even the Middle East has a leg up on the commonwealth, he said. Recently McAuliffe traveled with former president Bill Clinton to Saudi Arabia because he learned of its plans to invest $100 billion in renewable energy. Questioning the need for such an initiative in an oil-saturated country, McAuliffe was told by the king’s economic advisers that “‘We don’t ever want to use [our own oil] here’,” as they make roughly 30 times as much selling it to the U.S. at $80 per barrel. “So they’re gonna sell it to us chumps,” McAuliffe said. “Well, we’d better wake up, America.”
Noting U.S. national security’s link to oil, McAuliffe said, “We spend $90 billion a year just protecting [Middle East] straits. And the second that one of those is shut down, our economy is in real trouble.”
McAuliffe has founded a new company called GreenTech Auto — one in a long line of his endeavors since age 14 — to produce 100,000 electric vehicles as part of his commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. This week in Manhattan, with Clinton and a “MyCar” prototype at his side, McAuliffe announced the $1 billion investment, stating “. . . we’re gonna build all of these [automobile] plants in economically distressed areas.”
The former DNC chairman recently bought China’s largest electric vehicle plant and expects to roll out his cars as early as 2013. He is the nation’s first venture capitalist to purchase a Chinese company with plans to move it to the U.S., creating green jobs here. “Folks, we are losing out,” McAuliffe said. “China is eating our lunch . . . our biggest competitors have now become our bankers.”
The first “MyCar” plant is slated to break ground in Mississippi. While McAuliffe hopes to put the second one in Virginia, it may not occur, he said, due to lack of state investment incentives.
McAuliffe is also bidding on the now-abandoned International Paper Company plant in Franklin, Va., which put 1,100 people out of work when it closed down. He is hoping to convert it to an 80-megawatt biomass-to-electricity facility. It would be “the first big renewable [energy] project we have in Virginia,” he said.
Following the lead of three other Eastern states, “Clearly [Virginia] should be doing wind,” said a tired yet still upbeat McAuliffe in a subsequent interview. The state is primed for capturing this resource offshore, he continued, with Norfolk as a potential input station.
With much of his time now going to entrepreneurship, will McAuliffe take another run at Virginia’s governorship? “If I can change Virginia to help a lot of people, change the dynamic here on alternative energy and I can create a lot of jobs,” he said, “sure, I’d look at it.”