Cronkite News Service
ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX – Arizona Corporation Commission candidate Sam George wants Arizona to be the nation’s leader in solar energy, which he said will help move the state away from dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Arizona is currently using less than 1 percent solar energy but has the greatest amount of sunshine,” said George, a Democrat.
George, a political consultant who served as Arizona deputy secretary of state from 1990 to 1994, is running for the commission’s three open seats with Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Paul Newman, forming what they call the “solar team.” The candidates say Arizona is too reliant on coal-fired power plants and should do more to harness its abundant sunshine.
George said his administrative experience would make him an effective member of the Corporation Commission.
“I am the only candidate that has run a state agency, and I feel this makes me more qualified than some of the other candidates,” George said.
Since moving to Arizona from Indiana in 1990, George has worked on ballot initiatives including the Voter Protection Act, a proposition passed in 1998 that restricted the Legislature’s ability to overturn voter initiatives. He also worked on initiatives supporting medical marijuana and dealing with health care and education, among other subjects.
George was previously known as Sam Vagenas but switched to his middle name when he co-authored the 2004 book “The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America,” which asserts that Republican states are blocking energy policy in Washington and urges that energy policy be revolutionized.
George said he supports the Corporation Commission’s requirement that utilities receive 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. But he said Arizona should exceed that goal well ahead of schedule and establish itself as a leader in renewable energy.
“Right now even New Jersey is ahead of us in terms of renewable energy,” George said.
While the three Republican candidates for the Corporation Commission have said they support the renewable-energy standard, George said he’s concerned that GOP candidates want nuclear power to be part of Arizona’s move away from fossil fuels. George said nuclear power should be viewed as a last resort to Arizona because it costs too much and takes too long to bring on line.
“Nuclear is not safe, light-years away and possibly dangerous,” George said.
He said he supports the Western Climate Initiative, in which states including Arizona and several Canadian provinces may cut their greenhouse emissions by 2020 to 15 percent below 2005 levels. The plan includes a cap on emissions that decreases over time and a system that would allow utilities and other businesses to trade pollution rights or offset emissions through actions such as planting trees.
Residence: Paradise Valley
Professional Experience: Political consultant, former Arizona deputy secretary of state
Public Service: Hasn’t held elected office
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy, Marquette University