Gephardt: North Dakota can lead way in energy

BISMARCK – Politicians need to put partisanship aside and come together to address energy and climate change for the good of the country, Dick Gephardt said Tuesday.

The former Democratic presidential candidate and longtime Democratic U.S. representative from Missouri was one of Tuesday’s keynote speakers at the Great Plains Energy Expo in Bismarck.

About 350 people attended the two-day event aimed at bringing together all of the energy interests in the state to discuss the latest developments and common interests.

Energy and climate change are an easy set of issues to disagree about, Gephardt said.

“But of all the issues that are out there, I think this is the most important to the future of the country,” he said. “And frankly, should be easy to find an agreement on at some point.”

Getting the country’s energy policy even halfway right would make the country more energy independent, thus increasing security, Gephardt said. It would also help the nation’s economy. Gephardt said half of the nation’s trade deficit is due to oil.

And regardless of what people believe about climate change, looking at how to improve the environment should be another goal, he said.

A national policy needs to promote domestic sources of energy that are environmentally clean or as clean as possible, he said. It also needs to realize that every part of the country is different, and energy issues in North Dakota are different from those in New York or Missouri, he said.

Gephardt’s hope is that places like North Dakota, “where I think you have a lot of common sense,” can push the country toward consensus.

“We can get this right,” Gephardt said. “We can and will make this work and lead the way. North Dakota can be at the center of helping the country do it.”

The energy expo ended Tuesday. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he plans to host the expo in the future, continuing the work of retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.