Blame for emissions falls on local residents
February 15, 2006
Aspenites can’t blame all their greenhouse gas woes on the jet set and downvalley commuters. They need to look in the mirror.”I’ve seen the enemy and it is me,” said Dan Richardson, the city’s global warming project manager. Everyone has a role in the problem, he said.The city released a report Tuesday that shows the private and public sectors in Aspen released 840,875 tons of greenhouse gases in 2004. That’s about 50 tons of emissions for each resident and visitor here on an average day. The U.S. average is 27 tons of emissions per capita.Most scientists agree that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are major contributors to global warming.Aspen’s study identified commuter and commercial traffic on Highway 82 as well as private and commercial air travel as two major contributors to the city’s greenhouse gas problem. Air travel alone accounts for 41 percent of the city’s emissions. But Aspen still emits the harmful gases at a significantly higher rate than the national average, even when air travel and commuter driving are removed from the equation, according to the study. Aspen still produced 355,000 tons, or 43.4 tons per capita, when commuters’ and tourists’ emissions were eliminated and locals’ air travel was taken out of the equation.”If you take all those things away you still have large houses,” noted study author Rick Heede, an environmental consultant and former senior researcher at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Old Snowmass.In comparison, Boulder produced only 19 tons of emissions per capita in 2003 when the same factors were examined, according to Aspen’s study. Richardson said it is important for Aspen to realize that a good share of the emissions problem is attributable to the activities of its estimated 8,200 resident population.
“I worry that people are going to point to the rich people that fly in here and say they’re the problem, ‘I’m not going to have to do anything about it,'” Richardson said. “I know people like to glom onto the fact that it’s all air travel, but there’s more to it than that.”Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud compared the study results to a doctor’s checkup. The patient has learned it has an illness or disease.”Well, maybe we’re not as environmentally fit as we could be,” she said.Now the community must seek a cure. The city government wanted this study to provide baseline data for comparison in future years – and possibly to gauge progress. City officials hope a similar study, which cost $25,000, will be conducted every other year.The problem is Aspenites apparently don’t want to look in the mirror when it comes to their greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer than five private residents attended a community meeting to discuss the study results Wednesday night. Most people in the audience of 25 or so people were city staffers or from organizations that had a motive to attend.Richardson said future outreach meetings will try to get residents engaged.So if the jet set and commuters can’t be blamed completely for Aspen’s emissions, what’s the source of the gas? Energy consumption from monster homes and buildings in general, along with driving within the city limits and surrounding environs, were the culprits.Energy consumption by Aspen’s homes and commercial buildings was estimated to produce 273,311 tons of carbon dioxide in 2004, according to the study.Driving trips within town consumed 3.7 million gallons of gas and produced 36,720 tons of emissions, the study said.