Festival sparks energizing ideas
ASPEN The luminaries assembled for a discussion of fuels for the future were all upbeat Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival.Forward-thinkers like U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and local energy guru Amory Lovins headlined the energy track at the festival. A less-well-attended event later Monday made it clear, however, that though some of the big ideas may still only be in the idea phase, the technology is already affecting the valley.After the roundtable at the institute, Salazar made his way over to the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center for a low-key dedication ceremony of four new diesel hybrid-electric buses that will be added to the fleet that takes visitors to the popular Maroon Bells.
Salazar helped the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to get a $1.68 million grant to help purchase the buses. “You are the doers,” Salazar told numerous local government officials and members of the public. “You take great ideas being talked about, like at the Ideas Festival today … and you make it happen.”Back at the Ideas Festival, the technology of today is very old news, and everyone was talking about various types of batteries for electric cars, cellulosic ethanol and other new technologies. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, a Shell Corp. executive, and Alexander Karsner, the U.S. assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, joined Salazar in the roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon.
Woolsey compared the current oil economy to that of the salt economy 200 years ago and before. Salt is no longer a strategic commodity, Woolsey commented, but oil is. “We need to do to oil what electricity and refrigerators did to salt,” Woolsey said. “Destroy it as a strategic commodity … If it’s no longer essential, we have done a very great deal.”But while Woolsey saw much of the issue from a strategic point of view, and spoke of Saudi Arabia and oil cartels, folks like Karsner and Lovins talked more of efficiency and new technology.
Shell executive Marvin Odum saw it from a demand point of view. He noted a projected doubling of demand for energy worldwide by 2050 and said China is building new energy plants at a very rapid pace. But though others on stage suggested that the market could drive change, Odum said governments and policy would be the driving forces.At the end of the day, however, the tangible shift was here in Pitkin County, with a raft of new hybrid buses dedicated by Salazar. “We like clean air, we like clean water,” Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris said at the bus dedication. “We really put our money where our beliefs are.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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