Category Archives: Energy

Aspen’s Green Challenge

When it comes to global warming, writes Brent Garnder Smith, Aspen is probably not as green as it thinks it is.

And it is certainly not as green as it should be.

Smith was writing about the ideas presented at the Aspen Ideas Festival by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

“There is a saying at the Pentagon that a vision without resources is a hallucination,” Friedman said. “And I think right now we are in the middle of a big green hallucination.”

“We’re talking about preventing the doubling of CO in the atmosphere from the pre-industrial age to the year 2050,” he said. To do that, Friedman said, “We have to conserve as much energy as we’re now using as a world.”

Friedman said one way to move forward on the vast scale required to meet that goal is to change the definition of the word “green.” “So I’ve been trying to redefine green as the most capitalistic, patriotic, geo-strategic, pro-American, pro-growth, future-oriented thing you can do, be or say.”

But he said, “Green has not gone down Main Street at all at the scale we need. Not even close.”

And so while Aspen has gotten a lot of positive press coverage for its efforts to combat global warming, Friedman’s speech begs for a reassessment of the community’s efforts.

Read the full article . . .


California leads the nation on going ‘green’

From solar power to biofuel, state is way ahead of federal government. Read full article by John Larson, NBC News Correspondent  April 2, 2007

A thousand barrel a second oil fix

The world, most notably the developed world, has a very large habit. Canadian Peter Tertzakian thinks the days of the easy fix are over. As Steve Raabe writes in the Denver Post,

North America’s dependence on oil will force higher prices and lifestyle changes in years to come, a leading Canadian energy analyst warned a Denver audience in a recent speech.

“Ultimately we will get to the point where (oil) supply is unable to meet demand in an economically feasible way. That’s the break point – something has to give,” said Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist for Calgary-based ARC Financial Corp.

What will give, he said, is consumer behavior that until now has been motivated by cheap and plentiful energy. Out of necessity caused by tight supplies and high prices for oil, consumers will gravitate to fuel-efficient vehicles and increasingly embrace working at home in lieu of commuting.

Tertzakian noted that fuel-efficiency gains from new automotive technologies largely have been offset by consumer preference for trucks and sport utility vehicles.

“We’re suffering from vehicle obesity,” he told an audience at the Canadian Consulate General in downtown Denver. “The fleet gets heavier and heavier.”

Gasoline-electric hybrids are just a small part of the solution because they accounted for only about 1 percent of North American auto sales last year, he said.

“If every car buyer bought a hybrid, it would still take 14 to 15 years to replace the fleet,” said Tertzakian.

His new book, “A Thousand Barrels a Second,” refers to the current world rate of oil consumption. The book has been a best seller in Canada.

Tertzakian doesn’t align himself with the “peak oil” theory – the notion that world oil production will peak in coming years, followed by a gradual decline in which prices will keep rising.

However, he acknowledged that production of light, sweet crude oil – the type most favored by oil refiners – probably already has peaked and must be replaced by more expensive and harder-to-extract sources such as Canada’s vast reserves of oil sands, and perhaps in the future, Colorado’s oil shale.

His message of tight supplies, higher prices and the need to conserve and sacrifice used to rankle traditional oil and gas interests, many of whom believed that new discoveries and technologies would maintain strong production. That attitude is changing.

“Nobody in the industry disagrees that we will need development of alternatives and conservation,” said Marc Smith, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States.

“We’re not trying to deliver the message that the salad days are here forever,” Smith said. “Price and supply strictures will cause changes in consumer behavior. But it’s a question of whether it will be a hard landing or a soft landing.”

Colorado’s Energy Future could become national model

Bill Ritter’s Colorado Promise touts a “New Energy Economy” as part of its platform. With Democrats in the leadership position in the Governor’s mansion, the house and senate a renewed emphasis on energy efficiency and renewables could set a model for Washington to follow. As Steve Raabe and Christine Tatum write in the Denver Post, Colorado energy future is shows promise after the results of the November election:

Conventional political wisdom holds that Democrats will favor alternative and renewable energy, while taking a tougher look at the environmental impact of traditional energy sources – oil, natural gas and coal.

Yet some energy issues such as wind power and more oil and gas drilling have bipartisan support, and Democrats alone may not set the agenda.

“Responsible politicians in both parties recognize that America has been sleepwalking to disaster,” said Colorado energy analyst Randy Udall, “and that a new emphasis on energy efficiency, renewable energy and domestic production is needed.”

Here are a few of the sectors and companies that could see changes under the new political regime.


Colorado already has a strong foothold in the industry of making liquid fuels from crops, with several ethanol and biodiesel plants in operation, more under development and a research hub at the Golden-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Clean coal

Democrats are expected to take a strong look at the carbon emissions and pollutants from 153 new coal-burning power plants proposed for the next quarter century.

Oil and gas

Big Oil may be “a big loser” as congressional drilling limits are feared. Industry officials hope changes won’t inhibit extraction.

Industry officials are concerned about possible congressional initiatives to limit drilling on public lands and in coastal waters, as well as to assess windfall-profit taxes on oil and gas production.

Xcel Energy

Xcel, Colorado’s largest gas and electric utility, has recently embraced a carbon-reduction plan that is likely to win it kudos from majority Democrats in Congress and the Colorado legislature.

But Xcel’s support for a proposal that would reduce utilities’ carbon emissions without imposing taxes on utilities – in the form of draft legislation by Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota – could run into trouble in the new Congress. The proposal will face competition from several Democratic initiatives that would impose caps and taxes on carbon from coal-burning power plants.

Wind power

Despite a growing embrace of the industry, Congress has failed to enact a long-term tax credit that makes wind energy cost-competitive.

Wind energy has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Washington and Colorado in recent legislative sessions. Xcel Energy is the nation’s largest purchaser of wind power, primarily to serve customers in Colorado and Minnesota.

But Congress, to the dismay of wind-energy producers, has repeatedly failed to enact a long-term tax credit that makes wind energy cost competitive with coal-fired generation.

Read the full article . . .

Colorado towns get setious about energy and climate

The City of Boulder and the Town of Carbondale may be on opposite sides of Colorado’s Continental Divide, but they are on the same page when it comes to increasing the use of renewable energy and addressing climate change.
Voters in both communities approved tax and debt questions to implement their respective Community Energy Plans.

In Boulder, voters approved ( 59% to 41%) an “energy use tax” on electricity use by residential and business customers of Xcel Energy.

According to estimates, homeowners will pay an average of $33 a year, businesses $37 a year and industrial customers $2,832. The tax would raise$ 5.5 million over five years and pay for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Boulder.

The city has voluntarily agreed to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, which would require cutting the city`s emissions by 24 percent by 2012.

In Carbondale, voters approved the issuance (by a 4 to 1) of up to $1.8 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to construct and operate two large-scale solar systems. The proposed systems would provide about 250 kilowatts (KW) of power. One of the systems would be the largest solar system in western Colorado.

“It’s great to have interest-free money at the municipal level, so we applied,” said Joani Matranga, an architect of the project and the ballot question, which takes advantage of a provision tucked into the federal Energy Policy Act that encourages renewable energy investment by rural electric cooperatives, cities and towns.

The Internal Revenue Service pays the interest with tax credits to buyers of the bonds. Xcel Energy, prodded by requirements of Amendment 37 (passed by Colorado voters in 2004), will help pay the principle on the bonds with incentives and rebates based on energy production.

Read the full article by Marilyn Gleason . . .

Boulder to vote on Carbon Tax

DENVER — Voters in Boulder, Colo., will decide Tuesday whether the city will become the first in the nation to impose a “carbon tax” on homeowners and businesses to fund efforts to reduce emissions that cause global warming.

If approved, the ballot measure would tax electricity usage and add about $16-$20 a year to the average residential electric bill. Businesses would pay an additional $46 a year on average, and industries an extra $3,226, according to Yael Gichon of Boulder’s environmental affairs office. The tax could raise $860,000 in the first year.

Gichon and Matt Baker, director of Environment Colorado, a Denver-based environmental group, say that if the measure passes, it will mark the first time a U.S. city has voted in favor of a carbon tax to combat global warming.

The levy is called a carbon tax because most electricity in the USA is produced by burning coal and natural gas, which emit carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.

Climate Smart, a local group that supports the tax, estimates the average monthly residential electric bill of $63 would increase $1.38, or 2.2%. A medium-size office building would rise $33, or 0.6%.

Boulder, one of the state’s most liberal communities, has a long history of environmental activism, such as preserving open space, recycling and encouraging use of public transit. The town of about 92,000 residents is home to the University of Colorado and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “We have probably more climate scientists living in Boulder than any other city in the world,” Mayor Mark Ruzzin says.

The City Council authorized the ballot measure to fund a city plan to reduce greenhouse emissions 7% below 1990 levels. To accomplish that, Boulder would have to cut emissions 24% by 2012. About half of the city’s emissions are attributed to burning fossil fuels for electricity.

Four years ago, the city adopted emission targets set by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement the United States has not ratified, to reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

“There is a strong environmental ethic in Boulder,” Ruzzin says. “People are looking to do the right thing, and the climate action plan gets us down that road.”

No group has organized in the city to oppose the tax measure, and even the Boulder Chamber of Commerce has endorsed it. Climate Smart expects to spend about $8,000 on yard signs and “a few newspaper ads,” volunteer Ken Regelson says.

Gichon says the tax would fund efforts to increase energy efficiency, spur the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, and encourage residents to drive less. The tax also would fund city-sponsored energy audits for residences, and educational programs on utility-sponsored rebates for installing energy-efficient appliances, light fixtures and insulation.

Many states have mandated special charges on electric bills to fund energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs. And some city-owned utilities, including Fort Collins, Colo., have raised rates to pay for renewable-energy programs.

Auto CEO pushing fuel independence

From Al Lewis at the October 22, 2006 Denver Post . . .

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson wants to sell you a car, and he wants to raise the price you pay for gasoline every year for 10 years.

AutoNation, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the largest U.S. car dealer with 333 dealerships in 16 states (including 17 in Colorado), and more than 100,000 vehicles for sale online at Before Jackson took this job in 1999, he was CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Higher gasoline taxes, he says, will curb America’s lethal addiction to foreign oil – a habit that inevitably puts money in the hands of terrorists and sends U.S. troops into deadly battles.

“Americans do not want to go on like this,” Jackson said in a telephone interview. “Their dollars are going to support both sides of a war. It makes no sense.”

Jackson has been lobbying for a higher federal gasoline tax, which has not budged from 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. He wants to hike it 10 cents per year for a decade. He hopes this will force consumers to conserve and provide economic incentives for alternative fuel technologies.

The Fortune 200 CEO describes himself as a Republican, a fiscal conservative, strong on national defense and a free-market capitalist.

“You can’t leave national security to the free market,” Jackson said. “Five presidents have said this is an issue of national security. … But they haven’t put forth a policy to address it. We’ve gone from importing one-third of our oil to importing two-thirds. And fuel economy has been stuck at 21 miles per gallon for 25 years.”

The problem isn’t automakers or even big oil companies. The problem is American consumers, who’ve consistently chosen size and speed over fuel efficiency.

“If you want people to drink less, you tax alcohol. If you want them to smoke less, you tax cigarettes,” Jackson said.

“Let’s say the issue is obesity. Right now, what the federal government is doing is putting out a plate of broccoli and a plate of donuts, and it’s saying you should really eat broccoli, but we’re having a half-price sale on donuts.”

Gasoline has plunged to less than $2.25 a gallon. Jackson said he believes consumer behavior only begins to change at $3, and really changes at $6.

“The last thing that OPEC wants is for America to get serious about energy, conservation and the development of alternatives,” Jackson said.

In Jackson’s view, gasoline should be taxed, and alternatives should get tax breaks. But who wants to talk about taxes just before an election?

“The state of affairs in Washington is pretty depressing,” Jackson said. “They will say that they completely agree with my position but are unwilling to stick their neck out. Or they argue that the free market will address this issue. And when I point out that the free market hasn’t fixed it in 25 years, they shrug their shoulders and walk away.”

Jackson says his CEO acquaintances haven’t been much help, either.

“Most are supportive,” he said. “But few are willing to say it. The perception is that you’ll be tarred and feathered.”

An increasing number of economists, however, favor hiking gasoline taxes. Many argue that current gasoline prices do not reflect costs that are foisted upon society – such as pollution or the military required to protect oil fields.

Last month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who has long toed a conservative line on taxes, told a group of executives in Massachusetts that he favored hiking the gas tax. “That’s the way to get consumption down,” he said. “It’s a national security issue.”

Then came Robert Lutz, vice chairman for worldwide vehicle development at General Motors. “I’d say the best thing the (U.S.) government can do is to raise the gas tax by 10 or 15 cents a year until it reaches European levels,” Lutz said at the Paris Motor Show on Sept. 28.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, author of the global warming tome, “An Inconvenient Truth,” called for a tax on all fossil fuels in 1993. What we got instead was a 4.3-cent hike in the gasoline tax, a move so unpopular it helped Republicans take back Congress in 1994.

“If you read Al Gore’s book, he doesn’t call for anything effective,” said Jackson. “The inconvenient truth is that we need a higher gasoline tax.”