Black eye for a green city? |

Black eye for a green city?

John Colson
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen pumps out about twice as much greenhouse gas per capita as the national average, despite its reputation as a “green” resort town.Residents and visitors produce 50 tons of carbon dioxide per person each year here, according to a report the city released Tuesday. The U.S. average is 26.73 tons per person, according to the report, part of the city’s program to fight global warming.The report attributed Aspen’s high per-capita emissions to the city’s dependence on tourists who fly here from all over the globe. The biggest contributor to Aspen’s annual emissions is the exhaust from commercial jets, according to the report. Emissions from private aircraft, which carry relatively fewer passengers per flight but make up a large part of the traffic at the airport, came in a close second. Exhaust from cars, trucks and buses came in third.

The city paid $25,000 for the 51-page study from Snowmass consultant Richard Heede of Climate Mitigation Services. The city spent an additional $5,000 to $10,000 on staff time, according to the city’s global warming project manager, Dan Richardson. The study is part of the city’s Canary Initiative Aspen’s effort to reduce its contribution to global warming, prompted, in part, by the grave consequences climate change poses for the ski industry.Fueling the problemApproximately 97 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the combustion of fossil fuels, according to the report, with the remainder from methane at the county landfill and nitrous oxide from fertilizer.Airplanes accounted for 344,487 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, the study period.

“Air travel alone comprises 41 percent of Aspen’s emissions,” the study states, “a percentage comparable to industrial emissions in other heavily industrialized cities.”Automobiles on local highways and streets accounted for 211,175 tons, or approximately 25 percent of the total, the study said.Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses contribute about 3 percent, according to the report. And the study estimates RFTA represents a “net savings” of 6,811 tons of greenhouse gases per year that otherwise would be pouring from automobile tailpipes.

The report also tallies emissions from heating homes and buildings, and the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for electricity. That total is 273,311 tons per year. Sixty-one percent of that comes from electricity, but the report notes that the city has purchased energy generated from renewable sources such as wind and water, keeping an estimated 30,000 tons of greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere each year.According to a case study, a 2,100-square-foot house occupied full time in the West End generated approximately 12.2 tons of greenhouse emissions in 2004. A 7,931-square-foot home occupied three weeks of the year in the Five Trees subdivision produced 171 tons.The study notes the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and proposes methods for further reducing the community’s emissions. The suggestions include using energy-efficient technologies in housing and transportation, placing greater emphasis on planting trees, and publicly displaying the city’s emissions numbers.Richardson will present the study’s findings at a community discussion tonight from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room (at the old youth center), 455 Rio Grande Place.John Colson’s e-mail address is


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