Of canaries and ostriches | AspenTimes.com

Of canaries and ostriches

Dear Editor:How is each of us linked to global warming? Through every gas pedal and light switch in the valley. Through every hot water tap and thermometer, excepting only a few homes running on solar or wind energy.Carbon dioxide, Aspen’s chief greenhouse gas, is a byproduct of our demand for heat, mobility and power. We yearn for heat to warm our kettles and hearths at home, as well as our restaurants, stores and hotel rooms. Combustion of fossil carbon is also used to run turbines at coal- and gas-fired power plants in Colorado and Nebraska to generate the electricity used throughout our community. We use the electricity to light our streets and homes, to run cash registers and appliances, and to lift our skiers on cabled gondolas to the top of Aspen Mountain. We buy millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel to move about the valley, and use tens of millions of gallons of jet fuel to bring visitors to town and ourselves elsewhere. Millions of tons of fuel, materials and finished goods are transported to Aspen every year. Every day the equivalent of at least 6 million horses (as horsepower) crosses the Castle Creek Bridge. All of us – as homeowners, drivers, visitors, consumers and business owners – have our fingers (and feet) on the emissions throttle. Still, the Aspen Emissions Inventory 2004, which I recently completed for the city of Aspen, was not done to enumerate guilt but to identify the community of Aspen’s sources of emissions so that we can take practical steps to manage them and to measure our progress over time (PDF at http://www.aspenglobalwarming.com).As we will learn in the coming months, there are thousands of ways to reduce emissions. Many are free, most are profitable compared to undiminished energy purchases, and all options are on the table. Our local energy budget approaches $100 million per year, a figure readily cut by 10 percent, and by far more with effort and smarts.Aspen has the skills, resources and moral commitment to peak its emissions within a few years and then to aim for net zero emissions by, say, 2016. The search for profitable and practical solutions will take time, broad community participation and innovation. We can contribute to Aspen’s Canary Initiative, or we can hide behind the Bush administration’s ostrich approach. Take your pick.If not Aspen, where? If not us, whom?Rick HeedeOld Snowmass