Pete Stark, on what the President didn’t say

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, didn’t accompany President Barack Obama to a Recovery Act-supported solar panel manufacturing plant in his district today because he was stuck on Capitol Hill amid a steady flow of bills this week.

But he weighed in this afternoon on what the President did and didn’t say about making clean energy a centerpiece of the region’s and the nation’s economic rebound. Although the president spoke about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as an indicator of the nation’s need to wean itself from fossil fuels, Stark noted he didn’t speak about one important facet of that.

Pete Stark“My sense is that what he’s got to deal with is coal. ‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron, there is no such thing,” Stark said. “I think the tradeoff is nuclear. If we can find a reasonable storage disposal for the waste, then I think we have to become like other industrialized nations, a nuclear nation, and get rid of coal.”

“That’s a major, major change for this country, but I don’t see an alternative,” Stark continued. “He (Obama) doesn’t want to step on any toes, but I don’t think you can do the things he wants to do unless you take a stand. That would be my criticism of the current administration… We’re not moving forward.”

Stark today introduced a Defense Authorization Act amendment that would strike the additional $362 million that a House committee added onto the $9.9 billion that the Pentagon is seeking for a missile-defense system.

“I’d strike the entire thing if I could,” he said. “I think were spending too much on defense, anyway.”

“For years this missile defense thing I think has been a boondoggle, it’s a thing that doesn’t work. They’ve fussed with it at the Lawrence (Livermore National) Lab and it’s just a dream – they can do some stuff short range, but they just can’t hit anything.”

He acknowledged his amendment could have a tough political hill to climb. “The concept here, among conservatives in particular, is that they will fuss over anything we want to spend for Medicare or education or cleaning up the environment – all of that is wasteful – but the minute you mention the military, oh that’s patriotic and antiterrorism.”

This $362 million is money the nation “could spend on a lot of other things, hopefully not war-related,” he said. “Hopefully this will take a direct point at that, hopefully we’ll get enough progressive votes to make a difference.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.