FORT COLLINS - Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter was passed over as the nation's next energy chief on Monday by President Barack Obama.
Ritter, who has headed the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University since he left office in 2011, was said to be on the president's shortlist for the cabinet position of energy secretary. On Monday, Obama introduced MIT physicist Ernest Moniz as his nominee for the post heading the U.S. Department of Energy.
"This is a time where energy policy has to be a priority for this president," Ritter said. "Dr. Moniz is well-vetted, and it comes at a time where he has a lot of work on his platter, a lot of work to do. He's the person they need now for Washington, D.C."
Ritter's one term as governor of Colorado left a legacy of environmental protection and support for renewable energy that earned the ire of traditional energy industries, such as oil and coal. He initiated the Governor's Energy Office to promote renewable energy.
While the Obama administration vetted candidates to nominate as the next energy secretary, the Governor's Energy Office received a harsh state audit. It found that the energy office failed to show whether it effectively deployed more than $250 million during the past six years, four of which came during Ritter's term as governor.
Ritter said the audit overlooked readily available accounting for funds that would have cast the energy office in a more favorable light. He dismissed the notion that the audit guided the president's decision not to add him to the cabinet. "This audit did not impact the decision of the president on the secretary of energy," he said.
Ritter said he is not pursuing any other federal appointments as he is content to shape energy policy from his post at CSU.
The Center for the New Energy Economy aims to shape policy primarily at the state level by directing its message to legislatures, governors and interest groups throughout the country with a stake in energy and the environment. So far this year, Ritter said he has taken the center's message to governors in Arkansas, Texas, Wisconsin and California.
With gridlock gripping congress, Ritter said public policy around energy stands to gain its strongest foothold at the state-government level.
"I'm at a place where I believe the work we're doing here is valuable to the national conversation," he said.
(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)