For the second time in less than a year, President Barack Obama has visited a National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) National Training Center. Nashua Community College in Nashua, N.H., hosted the President March 1.
Delivering remarks on the economy and energy issues, Obama spoke to students, faculty, staff and community members. Prior to the speech, Karl Wunderlich, professor and chair of NCC’s Collision Repair, Honda PACT and Aviation Technology Departments, gave Obama a tour of the automotive facility, describing the college’s automotive programs and alternative fuel partnerships with the NAFTC, of which NCC is a member, and the City of Nashua.
“I just had a chance to look at some of the cutting-edge work that’s being done here at the auto shop,” Obama said. “Earlier this week, I gave a speech where I said that one reason this country has an auto industry today is because we’re not just building cars again we’re building cars that use less oil, cars that go farther on a gallon of gas. And in part, that’s because of what’s happening in places like this community college. It’s because of so many of you.”
Wunderlich explained that his department had a few stations set up, so the President could see various fuels and technologies at work.
“One was a 2011 GMC Sierra that runs on flex fuel,” Wunderlich noted. “We had a computer set up to monitor engine performance and fuel economy. We discussed how it is better for the environment, and he was quite interested in that technology. He spoke with the students briefly at that station about their experiences working in shops and their experiences here at the school.”
Another station featured a compressed natural gas-powered trash truck owned by City of Nashua, according to Wunderlich.
“We talked about CNG and the technology and how it differs from gasoline- and diesel-powered engines,” Wunderlich added. “We told him how we are working with the NAFTC to develop programs for training technicians. He was very surprised that we had something going already, and he was quite impressed that there are such programs out there. He was happy to see CNG vehicles as an alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles and thought the nation could stand to use that type of technology.”
According to information from NCC’s website, Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has, in the past year, spearheaded the conversion of a number of the city’s vehicles to compressed natural gas. This will equate to sizeable savings in fuel and lessen the carbon footprint. Nashua Community College is presently developing a training program for the city that focuses on servicing and maintaining next-generation, alternative fuel vehicles.
“I don’t need to tell you why fuel efficiency is so important, especially right now,” Obama said in his speech. “Most of you filled up your gas tanks in the last week or two, am I right? ?We’ve got to have an all-of-the-above strategy that develops every single source of American energy. Not just oil and gas, but also wind and solar and biofuels. We’ve got to keep developing the technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars and trucks, less oil in our buildings and our factories.”
While introducing President Obama, Automotive Technology student and retired Air Force veteran Mike Kapel reflected on why he chose to attend NCC. “I’m amazed how much there is to learn about today’s high-tech cars,” he noted. “Like many of the students here, I am grateful for NCC for providing the training needed to start a new career.”
Nashua Community College President Lucille Jordan added, “It was an absolute honor to host a presidential visit. Our cutting-edge partnership with the City of Nashua is testament to our spirit of ingenuity and fiscal prudence. We are pleased to be providing our expertise on servicing vehicles of tomorrow.”
The college will soon break ground on a 17,000-square-foot addition that will add three classrooms and 10 garage bays to benefit the school’s auto-collision program. The $2 million project will be paid with state funds and potentially allow the program to double its size.
“I’m glad President Obama came here to Nashua to discuss the importance of American energy and how to build a brighter energy future for our country,” Kapel said.
Obama also visited NAFTC member Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) last year. During that visit, he toured NOVA’s Automotive Department, recognizing the need for alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles as well as trained technicians to service them.