By Crystal Bozek , Staff Writer
If elected to Congress, Barry Finegold's first act will be to ask Americans to spend $100 billion on forcing the federal government to go green.
The candidate for Congressman Martin Meehan's seat says the country is too dependent on foreign oil and he has a solution. He wants to power all federal buildings and cars with alternative energy sources to save the country money - as well as help the environment.
"I want to see every U.S. post office and federal building with either a hydrogen fuel cell or solar power," the Andover Democrat said. "We can't tell private businesses they should invest in renewable energy without doing so ourselves."
But going green takes a lot of green. His plan calls for spending $20 billion a year for five years to install those fuel cells and solar panels and to buy all hybrid cars. In comparison, that $100 billion he is proposing is equal to what America spends to fight the war in Iraq each year.
"Over time, this will probably save us money. At $20 billion a year, it's less than 1 percent of the budget," said Finegold. "It will be much less expensive to free America from dependence on foreign oil than it is to keep fighting oil wars in the Middle East."
While Finegold said the government should lead by example, he has yet to make a total green transformation himself.
He said his family buys energy-saving light bulbs, takes less hot showers and uses fewer plastics. But Finegold admits to driving a regular Chrysler and hasn't looked into installing solar panels on his own home or office. His wife does drive a Lexus hybrid.
"My next car will be a hybrid," he said. " I wish more companies like Chrysler made them. ... That's part of the problem."
Finegold argues that if the government used these energies, they'd drive the prices down, creating a market for middle-class buyers.
"If the government was behind it, it would open up the market to consumers," he said.
Global warming and alternative energy have become topics focused on in campaigns since former Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" premiered last year, raising questions about the country's role in global warming. Finegold's Democratic challengers have made exploring alternative energy a major part of their platforms.
"I was talking about it when no one was talking about it," Finegold said.
Finegold, a state representative, introduced the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Road Map on Beacon Hill last year, which creates a $1,500 tax credit for people who purchase hybrid vehicles.
"If we were able to put a man on the moon, we can find a solution to this foreign oil dependence," Finegold said.
Finegold is one of several candidates running for Meehan's soon-to-be vacant seat. Meehan is stepping down to become the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. A primary election is expected in early September and a final election in October.