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On Point
Vincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.


Carroll: Clearing the air
Wednesday, November 7 at 12:42 AM

Gov. Bill Ritter’s Climate Action Plan is a “living document,” we are told early in the text, meaning “it does not include the full array of measures we will need to undertake to comprehensively address climate change in Colorado.”

I’ll say. The plan barely includes the warm-up drills for the grueling acrobatics that would be needed to reach the governor’s goals of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 (with 2005 as the base).

In that respect, the Climate Action Plan is a faith-based document. The governor and his advisers “hope and expect” that new technology will appear that allows us to reach their goals without economic dislocation. Ritter turns out to be like most politicians on the question of sacrifice: You will find not a word of warning that the forced transformation of the state’s energy base in a few short decades might result — almost certainly will result, if politicians are serious about such goals — in slower economic growth, and that we might want to adjust our expectations accordingly.

No, my fellow Coloradans: The transformation will be painless, even “exciting.” “New jobs, new businesses and new investments” will cascade into our midst. No sacrifice necessary, thank goodness.

If this were actually true, the New Energy Economy would unfold without prodding, as consumers, businesses, manufacturers and utilities shifted from fossil fuels to more inexpensive, attractive options. But since this isn’t occurring with the speed desired by those most worried about global warming, government here and in Washington is determined to stack the deck. They will use incentives and taxes to realign the prices of different energy sources; grant massive subsidies to such expensive technologies as clean coal; and issue mandates boosting the price (and greenness) of various consumer products, including cars.

None of this will be pain-free, even if government officials don’t have to ever wave a bill in front of a single voter’s face.

That task will be reserved for the likes of Tim Taylor, CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado (an Xcel company), who stood dutifully beside Ritter during Monday’s announcement of the Climate Action Plan. Utility executives are apparently used to being the least popular kids on the block.

And the answer is . . .

The authors of the Colorado Climate Action Plan worked to ensure that their first recommendations come across as moderate and judicious, but occasionally the result leaves readers wondering about their candor. An example, from Page 20: “We are not prepared today to address what the state’s position should be with respect to permitting new conventional coal-fired power plants that would serve Colorado consumers.” But they promise a verdict within 12 months.

Permit me to puncture the suspense: Under this administration, the state’s position will be to oppose the permitting of any new conventional coal-fired power plants — or to impose so many conditions that the end result is the same.

The nuke juke

Unlike Al Gore, Ritter officially sees a possible role for nuclear power in the quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the paragraph on nuclear energy in his climate plan seems to dismiss current technology as inadequate while implying that it’s unsafe.

Unsafe compared to what, one wonders? The climate plan notes that nuclear power “is widely used in parts of Europe and Asia,” as if more than 100 nuclear plants didn’t produce 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, too. Has there been a raft of accidents in the industry that we haven’t heard about?

For a variety of reasons, Colorado isn’t a likely location for a new nuclear plant. Still, it’s misleading and unfortunate that a plan ostensibly interested in reducing emissions from fossil fuels acts as if nuclear energy were merely another speculative, unproven technology on which the verdict is still uncertain.

Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.


READER COMMENTS

Yea, right VC. The alleged free market is the answer to all things since it has such a sterling record of performance in addressing social and environmental concerns. You've got your blinders on too tightly as usual.

Posted by What? on November 7, 2007 09:05 AM

Where is Ritter's cost-benefit analysis and rigor? There is not a scintilla of evidence presented to the taxpayers and consumers who will be asked to pay for his envirofandango.

The only thing I saw was liberal "feel good." It appears that Ritter's "touchy-feely" agenda will chase highly mobile capital away, increase operating costs, slow economic growth, slow new job creation, penalize incomes and reduce consumption. One result will be higher business costs, higher prices, more inflation and higher interest rates. This will take a nasty bite out of the cycle of wealth creation as Colorado's competitve position is severely compromised. Where's the cost-benefit analysis?

If Ritter were running a private business, then a cost-benefit analysis would be required. Since he offers not a scintilla of supporting data, he would be getting his gold Rolex 20-years early. He's buying into the G-W hoax hook, line and sinker and wants to convert you to his religion.

Posted by Hank on November 7, 2007 09:25 AM

Kudos to Ritter! GW is a big problem. It will require big solutions. VC seems to say GW is somewhat of a possible problem some day but not one he has any solutions for.

This is in line with VC's antipathy to the New Energy Economy - especially (and bizarrely) energy efficiency.

Ritters plan is if anything too mild but it is prudent in that it focuses on the actions we should be taking regardless of their climate consequenses. Clean cars is cleaner air and better gas miliage. Clean electricity is more renewables, energy efficiency and advancing technology.

Seems reasonable.

Posted by Matt on November 7, 2007 10:11 AM

I have an idea! Let's ban the loud car stereos because they waste energy.

Posted by freethinker on November 7, 2007 10:38 AM

C'mon, VC! Nuclear power from another state won't benefit the economic development of this one. Also, nuclear power creates waste that, if humanity is lucky to last that long, we will deal with for millions of years. Are you just pushing "nuculear" power because Sarkozy is hanging with your buddy, GW, right now? Why would we want to be like the French anyway. We're Americans! We can do better!

Posted by KS on November 7, 2007 11:28 AM

Exactly what kind of absentee logic is Vincent Carroll using in his November column under the heading "The Nuke Juke", in his criticism of Al Gore and Governor Ritter in regards to the safety of nuclear energy?

Mr. Carroll forgets to mention that there is been no new nuclear power plant built or license applied for in eleven years, since 1996.

And why is this?

1) Nuclear power is economically unfeasible, and companies are not interested in losing money.

2) Nuclear power is vigorously opposed and viewed as inherently unsafe because there is still no method to permanently and safely dispose of the permanently toxic waste material generated by nuclear plants, and there do not appear to be any solutions to this problem.

Apparently Mr. Carroll subscribes to the notion that mere use of a product or service automatically defines such use as safe.

I would like to remind Mr. Carroll of the history of products and services that have been recalled, banned, or halted because at some point they were intelligently recognized to be unsafe.

Posted by Neil Slade on November 7, 2007 11:28 AM

If you think Ritter is bad about taxes now, just wait until he gets his environmental plan up and running. Keep your wallet in your front pocket.

Posted by on November 7, 2007 08:47 PM

Four things are guaranteed. More expensive energy bills, brownouts because renewables work only 33% of the time and, given what China is doing, absolutely nothing to reduce global CO2 and absolutely no effect whatsoever on the natural minor amount of global warming that is occuring.

Get out your checkbook!

Posted by PAK on November 7, 2007 10:21 PM

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