James Woolsey
James Woolsey Jr.

If you go

What: An Evening of Inspiration with R. James Woolsey

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: University of Colorado, University Memorial Center, Room 235

Cost: $15 pre-registration, $20 at the door

Former CIA Director James Woolsey will speak about improving national security through renewable energy initiatives at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Colorado.

Woolsey, the head of the CIA for two years under President Bill Clinton, will kick off a daylong workshop on Feed-In Tariffs, or FITs — contracts that require utility companies to buy electricity generated from renewable energy, like solar panels. The speech will address how progressive energy initiatives, such as FITs, can be used to improve American security by reducing reliability on foreign countries.

“A big part of the message is there are all sorts of reasons to be interested in FITs,” Woolsey said. “It’s not just about one thing … it’s about so many things and that’s what makes the discussion so fascinating, I think.”

Woolsey added that diversifying energy sources can prevent large-scale problems.

“The energy systems that we have in the United States are so highly centralized and interconnected that if one big power plant or a substation with transformers in it goes down, everybody across a wide area of the country could be out of power for a substantial amount of time,” Woolsey said. “Whether it’s a terrorist attack on our power supply or just a tree falling in the wrong place, localized energy will protect us from an array of possible problems.”

One particular aspect of Woolsey’s speech is piquing community interest.

By examining energy as a national security matter, some think Woolsey will bring unlikely conservative participants to the discussion.

“I think security is an interesting twist on the subject that could bring in some different perspectives,” said CU senior Scot Woolley, president of CU’s Energy Club. “I’m expecting to see some more right-wing Boulderites joining the discussion, instead of just the usual hippies and liberals.”

With more than 500 student members in the Energy Club, Woolley said many in the group plan to attend.

Gregory Carlson, a CU senior who describes himself as conservative, said he will not be surprised if national security helps bring Democrats and Republicans together on energy issues.

“I’ve thought for years that the way to unite Republicans and Democrats is to make it a national security issue,” Carlson said. “Most Americans, despite their ideology, can agree that they don’t like our dependence on energy. It’s the one thing we all have in common.”

But not all Republicans are confident that making energy a security matter will bridge the gap between ideologies.

“In some ways it bridges the gap, but in other ways it doesn’t,” said Scott Starin, chairman of the Boulder County Republicans. “I care about national security and the environment but that still doesn’t make the more Democratic suggestions of immediately switching to solar and wind power valid.”

Woolsey’s unique perspective could be a start to bringing parties together on energy issues, but a consensus has not been reached yet, Starin said.

Woolsey said he would like to see FITs and other local energy initiatives take off nationwide, and Boulder would be an ideal location to start some of these energy trends.

“As a university community, many citizens are interested in the environment and the climate is very good for solar energy and potentially for wind and biomass energy as well,” Woolsey said.

Besides ideal community conditions, Boulder would be a great leader to prompt the rest of the state to embrace these renewable energy concepts, Woolsey said. And with the potential for the university, which already has some solar panels, and local business to profit from their energy production, the benefits are almost endless.

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