Schweitzer Decries ‘Petro Dictators,’ Props Up Alternative Energy in New Book

Three years after leaving governor’s mansion, Schweitzer says he’s not thinking about returning to elected office

By Justin Franz
Brian Schweitzer discusses his book, Power Up.energy, in Whitefish Oct. 16, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

WHITEFISH – Three years after leaving the governor’s mansion in Helena, Brian Schweitzer is back in the saddle promoting a new book about alternative energy.

On Friday, the fast-talking former governor held a small press conference outside of the O’Shaughnessy Center where he proved that he still has a knack for being a showman. In the book, titled “Power Up.energy,” Schweitzer decries “petro dictators,” criticizes America’s “oil wars” and writes that the nation needs to quickly develop its own clean and renewable energy.

“We need an energy system that is clean, green and American made,” Schweitzer said. “The number one thing I want people to get from this book is that there is hope and that we don’t need to have wars over energy.”

Schweitzer said America could reduce its reliance on foreign oil if it did more to develop natural gas, solar and wind power, as well as battery technology to store that power. The former governor proposed a system by which vehicles automatically purchase power at night when it’s less expensive and then use it during the day to power the owner’s home and commute. He also said vehicles could automatically sell power from their batteries during the day when prices are high, enabling the owner to earn extra money as well.

Before being elected governor in 2004, Schweitzer was a soil scientist and worked overseas, including in Saudi Arabia. He also owns and operates a ranch near Whitefish. On one of his first days as governor in January 2005, he said he flew to Troy to attend the funeral of a solider that had been killed in Iraq. Schweitzer said he was frustrated that soldiers were dying in a war that was, in his opinion, about oil.

“During all of those funerals I thought how ludicrous it was for us to be tied to an energy that was controlled by petro dictators,” he said.

While in office, Schweitzer made an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, prompting supporters to urge him to run for higher office. Although he ruled out a run for the White House earlier this year, Schweitzer didn’t hesitate to offer his own opinions about the 2016 race. He said he didn’t know if he would endorse a candidate and that he wanted them to talk more about their plans to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign oil.

“I’m waiting for one candidate on the Republican or Democratic side to talk about the elephant in the room,” he said.

As for his own future ambitions, Schweitzer said he had plenty to keep him busy at home, including a “darn good dog, a beautiful wife and a ranch to run.” He said that he wasn’t currently thinking about running for office again but that he hasn’t “ruled anything in or out.”

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