The Colorado Keystone

Webster defines keystone as "the central principle or part of a policy, system, etc., on which all else depends".  Yesterday's announcement by our President set the stage for our nation to begin the process of addressing our carbon pollution, as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2007 – and now regulated by the EPA under their authority within the Clean Air Act, (also affirmed in that same 2007 Supreme Court decision).  Obama's announcement is, in effect, "America's Keystone";  it will be the foundation upon which we determine state and federal policy regarding energy for the coming decades.  It has taken over seven years to get from the historic 2007 court decision to the 2014 proposed rules – and it will be another 15 years, best-case scenario, before we would see full implementation of the regulations. 

The 'clutching of pearls' by the right-wing spin machine aside, meeting these new standards comes at a modest, if any, cost.  In fact, if one includes in the calculation the reduced health costs of the transition, the jobs created, and in the case of rural Colorado, nearly $6 billion in new tax base, only a Coprolite would conclude that the Colorado renewable standard, the second-most aggressive in the nation, was a bad idea.

Colorado has much to be proud of in our proactive approach by the Ritter Administration to begin the transition away from coal and tackling our state's emissions profile.  We often heard Bill talk in terms of 'being stubborn stewards" and "shared sacrifices".  Under his reign our state created the second-most aggressive renewable portfolio standard in the nation; we passed in excess of 50 legislative bills that dealt with new standards, energy efficiency and sustainability.  We became know world-wide as the birthplace of the New Energy Economy and environmental leadership.

Since 2011 we have watched Boulder take on Goliath and create the foundation for a 21st-century municipal electric.  Fort Collins has implemented feed-in-tariffs within the confines of their jurisdiction.  We're fast approaching $6 billion of investments in wind farms on Colorado's eastern plains – and plans of new solar farms in the Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley. Five Front Range communities have rejected untethered oil and gas developments within their city limits, the LaPlata Rural Electric Association board of directors now has a pro-renewable energy majority.  We've begin the process to aggressively regulate fugitive methane in Colorado's gas patch. Captured methane gas is powering parts of Aspen, and a new small hydroelectric plant will deliver local power to the Delta-Montrose Rural Electric Association membership. Our rural electrics must now meet 20% of their energy needs with green energy. Vestas is considering moving its North American headquarters to the Centennial state.

We've come a long way in the past decade since the passage of Amendment 37.  We've built a foundation – projects and policy – upon the knowledge that we have an infinite amount of sunshine, wind and biomass.  We understand we don't have to settle for sacrificing our state's environment to have a robust economy.  We understand the economic opportunities in transitioning to the New Energy Economy – and the perils of the false prophets promoting a business-as-usual case for energy development.  

As Bill Gates is credited as saying, "we over-estimate what they can accomplish in a year and under-estimate what we can accomplish in a decade".  While we have only begun this long, tenuous journey of change over the past decade, it would be hard not to argue that our leadership owes a debt of gratitude to the bi-partisanship co-chairs of the 2004 Amendment 37, Mark Udall and Lola Spradley – and it would be even harder to overstate the accomplishments we have put under our belt since that historic victory.

All of this, I would argue, is our "Colorado's Keystone".  Not a pipeline – but a foundation for a  21st-century energy policy that is consistent with our western values and our conservation ethic; a foundation by which we can lead by example and buoy our national efforts to be a global leader.

What's next? Will Colorado voters make Local Control the centerpiece of this fall's election?  Will it be a proxy vote for or against those who embrace the concept? Can we construct a Renewable Thermal Standard, creating opportunities for reductions in the built environment? Perhaps we can build a virtual power plant, fueled only by energy efficiency.  Will we tackle the necessary regulatory changes to bring about a more transparent and free energy market? It's hard to say, but if history is any guide – we can all be assured the next decade will be filled with grand accomplishments while we transition to an economy powered by our clean, abundant resources.

There is nothing but lack of political will that will keep the creativity and entrepreneurship of Coloradans from entering this exciting marketplace – and providing global leadership.  That's the real 'Keystone'

2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Are solar thermal systems still getting tax credits? I don't know, unfortunately. The last place I lived would have been ideal for solar hot water/ baseboard heat, but all the solar companies wanted to do was to put up photovoltaics to inefficiently heat my electric heaters.

    Yes, Colorado could lead in using renewable energy, as it is leading on voting rights and marijuana legalization.

    I'm thinking of a physics analogy – the object that wants to stay at rest (the energy economy as it is, all of the misinformation, fear of change, and industry spin supply the "inertia"), the need for energy and the new EPA carbon  regs supply the force to start the renewable energy economy rolling, and once it is in motion, it will want to stay in motion. Economics and good old capitalistic self-interest should take care of that, as you wrote.

    Once again, thanks for sharing your vision. We'll get there – the alternative is just too grim to contemplate.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      The residential credits are still in place.  Solar heat is such low-hanging fruit, but then, it reduces the consumption of natural gas and would eat in to those millions of jobs right here in Colorado, so that would be a bad thing (except for the new jobs it would create – and the money it would save consumers).  It's too bad that solar isn't real 'energy'. :-)     You're right – we'll get there – but it appears we're going to have to take them kicking and screaming in to the future.

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