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Clinton praises CU green energy initiative but declines skateboard trial

It's not likely Sen. Hillary Clinton will make skateboarding her primary mode of transportation -- and she politely declined when Comet Skateboards co-founder and Cornell alumnus Jason Salfi offered her a chance to try out his company's wares.

But the idea behind his company, which produces sustainable and biodegradable skateboards in partnership with the Cornell spinoff company e2e Materials, got her approval.

The senator and former presidential candidate stopped by Syracuse's City Hall July 2 for an alternative energy forum that featured exhibits by Comet, e2e, the Cornell University Renewable Bioenergy Initiative (CURBI), and a dozen regional companies and partnerships invited by Syracuse Mayor Matthew Driscoll.

Cornell agricultural operations manager Andrew Lewis represented CURBI with extension associate Lee Telega. Lewis gave Clinton an overview of the initiative, a planned College of Agriculture and Life Sciences project to use on-hand resources from farms, forests and other operations in and around Ithaca to generate energy that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

The initiative would bring an array of technologies together in a single facility, Lewis told the senator, to harvest energy from materials ranging from hazelnut shells to switchgrass to leftover vegetable oil from campus dining facilities.

"The whole thought behind this is to be a model for the state and for the rest of the world," Lewis said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something right."

Clinton listened to the pitch and asked a few specific questions about pyrolysis -- the combustion of organic material without oxygen. "Very exciting," she said. "And all that used vegetable oil -- I like it."

After a tour of the exhibits, Clinton stepped outside to the neighboring Hanover Square for a short speech. She was joined by New York Gov. David Paterson, who praised Clinton's longtime support for renewable energy.

"Energy is really our new currency," Paterson told the gathered crowd of exhibitors and others. "Energy in many ways is dictating and pervading all issues related to our economy, from the management of money to the building and renovation of our infrastructure. ... We are going to need clean, renewable alternative energy sources to buttress those energy sources that we have been using."

Clinton noted that the U.S. is more dependent on foreign oil than it was before Sept. 11. "Shame on us for letting that happen," she said, adding that efforts like those of Cornell and other innovators are vital to the country's economy, environment and security.

"I will continue to be your biggest booster," she said to the exhibitors. "We are living off the investments of previous generations," she continued. "It is now time for us to step up and make those investments, and I am absolutely positive we will."

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