Schweitzer addresses energy future on Air America

The Missoulian

by Jamie Kelly

Oil and water do mix, apparently – or at least they do in the mind of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

In town to witness the historic breaching of Milltown Dam, water was first and foremost on his mind. But before that, he stopped by KMPT 930's studio to have a free-flowing discussion of oil.

Schweitzer took to the airwaves at 10 a.m., followed by Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who also witnessed the dam breaching.

A guest on nationally syndicated radio host Thom Hartmann's show on Air America, Schweitzer made no bones about his loathing of America's current energy policy as it relates to foreign oil.

If America wants perpetual war, then by all means it should continue with its insatiable appetite for Mideast oil, he said.

"We've been in the Middle East with our military for the last 60 years defending our oil fields," he told Hartmann, an author and radio host who coincidentally was in Missoula to do a national feed from KMPT. "We're not leaving. Until we find ways of creating new, clean domestic energy, we're creating the next generation who will be defending those oil fields."

Every time Americans fill up at the pump, they're handing money to dictators while multinational oil companies get rich – in what Schweitzer, a Democrat, calls "the largest money-laundering scheme in U.S. history."

It's a particular kind of madness, because America has the resources to wean itself off foreign oil with its own domestic production of clean and efficient alternatives, he said.

"You want this to stop?" he asked. "You support our efforts in clean and green energy. If we were driving electric cars, we could be off foreign oil in 15 years."

Tester, also a Democrat, then followed the governor – the two exchanged handshakes and small talk, and Tester gave a pat to Schweitzer's dog, Jag.

Tester's appearance on the show would be short, Hartmann told his audience, because "they have to go blow up a dam or something."

Tester said the current administration is ignoring critical infrastructure needs, such as schools, roads, water and sewer systems. Such things are important to a vibrant economy, he said, and they're unfortunately being ignored.

"It's about priorities within the budget," he said. "When your priorities are misplaced, as this administration's is, this is what you end up with. You end up with middle-class folks, and folks who work for a living, not being able to pay the bills at the end of the month."

Critical, too, is America's need to support its veterans, which Tester has been working on.

He said the Montgomery GI bill needs a massive update, with more college benefits for veterans, and more support for disabled veterans, especially the ones returning from the Iraq war.

"I hear the stories from veterans that just put you to your knees," Tester said. "This is part of the cost of war, and we need to fund it and fund it right."

Hartmann, in town to also promote his new book, "Cracking the Code," seemed genuinely perplexed at how a traditionally Republican-leaning state like Montana could elect two Democratic senators and a governor.

"How does a Democratic candidate get elected in this state to the U.S. Senate?" he asked Tester.

"You talk about issues Montana cares about," Tester said. "You step up to the plate once you get elected. … Montana has an independent streak, a libertarian streak. If you talk sense to folks, they'll support you in the end."