ARE Day: there’s hope in climate change battle |

ARE Day: there’s hope in climate change battle

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Gov. Bill Ritter speak Friday during ARE Day. (Lynn Goldsmith/Special to The Aspen Times)

ASPEN The American public must direct the battle against global warming rather than wait for leadership from the federal government, experts said Friday at the American Renewable Energy Day in Aspen.And while climate change might appear to be an overwhelming problem, there are numerous examples of steady progress from grassroots organizations and efforts, speakers said.Gov. Bill Ritter said there has been a “seismic shift” in the views of Coloradans toward climate change. Polls show a “20-point change” over the past two years in the number of people who believe climate change presents a problem.Interest in promoting alternative energy sources crosses political parties and philosophies, said Ritter, a Democrat elected last year. He promoted the idea of making Colorado a leader in researching and implementing renewable energy as a prime campaign theme. “We never looked back,” he said, and voters responded positively.

Before Ritter took office, Colorado voters approved a measure that requires power companies to produce 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. “We’ll reach that by 2007,” Ritter said. The state Legislature passed a bill this session that amended the goal to 20 percent by 2015.That’s just the beginning of what Colorado could accomplish. According to Ritter: Colorado is the sixth-“sunniest” state in the nation, so solar power has big potential; it has the fourth-highest potential for geothermal development; and it is the ninth- or 11th-windiest state, depending on different sources, so wind farms could work well.Since he’s taken office, plans have been unveiled for development of two major wind farms and a solar plan in the San Luis Valley. A Dutch firm announced it is building a plant in the Front Range to produce rotors for turbines. Colorado is embracing alternative energy initiatives and stoking its universities to be leaders in research and development, Ritter said.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, another featured speaker at ARE Day, said Denver and the state will get a chance to show its environmental leadership when it hosts the Democratic National Convention next summer and attracts international limelight.An estimated 35,000 people, including 15,000 journalists from around the world, are expected to descend on Denver for the convention. Hickenlooper said a special committee is working on plans to make it “the greenest convention in history. No specific plans have been made yet, so the mayor was short on specifics. Examples of steps that will be implemented are waterless urinals, reusable water bottles and “sustainable swag,” he said.ARE Day, founded by Roaring Fork Valley resident Chip Comins four years ago, featured several speakers who are leaders in various efforts to promote alternative energy. Among Friday’s speakers were:n William Becker, a former official with the U.S. Department of Energy who now heads the Presidential Climate Action Project. The organization is promoting a platform on climate change that it wants the next president to implement within the first 100 days in office. For example, it wants to wean the U.S. off Persian Gulf oil within a reasonable time but set caps on domestic production so sensitive lands in the U.S. aren’t adversely impacted.

Becker acknowledged that the organization faces a tough sell to get the next president to embrace its stance on climate change and its proposed solutions, at least right now. “I think if any of (the presidential candidates) took a bold position, I’d be surprised,” he said.n Roger Duncan, deputy general manager of the municipal utility for Austin, Texas, outlined promising efforts to promote “plug-in hybrids,” vehicles that can be plugged in to store electricity produced by wind power in their batteries. It has great potential to tap wind power for transportation.AREDay continues today with dozens of displays of renewable energy at the Cooper Avenue Mall and a presentation about Aspen’s renewable energy plan by Mayor Mick Ireland at 2 p.m. Environmental films “Crude Impact” and “Nobody’s Home” will be screened at the Wheeler Opera House between 4 and 6 p.m.Scott Condon’s e-mail is