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Charlie Leonard: Inalienable Rights

Charlie Leonard
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

For several weeks I have been wondering what, if anything, could possibly inflame the righteous indignation of Aspen liberals more than a family that chose to spend its vacation in Aspen at one of the town’s premier vacation properties, hosting a large group of family and friends.

I am referring of course to the Hotel Jerome kerfuffle that had Aspen’s political-correctness squad in an uproar. While about half of the inflammatory rhetoric and name-calling in that situation was directed at the individual who leased out the Jerome, the other half of the incendiary hyperbole was directed at the hotel for, of all things, acting like a hotel.

In that instance, so many unfounded accusations were unleashed that otherwise reasonable people started to think we had a federal fugitive hiding out at the Jerome. In fact, the individual involved was named in some civil lawsuits (as just about anyone in business finds themselves sooner or later) but has never even been a suspect in a crime.

Now, it seems “Jeromegate” was only a primer for the current Aspen tempest over whether the Aspen Chamber Resort Association should remain a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Not unlike the Hotel Jerome situation, apparently ACRA’s support for “commerce” is too much for some to stand.

The U.S. chamber’s “crime,” it seems, is that it has sought a balanced approach to carbon-emissions policies that would keep our economy strong while responsibly taking steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Undeterred by the facts, as they were in the Hotel Jerome matter, a host of letter-writers in our papers claims the U.S. chamber engages in “climate denial.”

In fact, the chamber very publicly acknowledges climate change and the need for further development of renewable energy. But it also recognizes that our economy – and our commerce – is still very much dependent on fossil fuels and will be for the foreseeable future. Our factories, our homes, our transportation systems and, yes, even our ski lifts all depend on our ability to further produce and acquire fossil fuels.

Like the great majority of reasonable Americans, I don’t dispute that Earth is experiencing a warming trend, particularly if you base that judgment on the past 100 years. But it’s not a “rapid” warming trend, as our local friends have portrayed it. And a considerable number of scientists are actually split on whether the most recent decade actually demonstrated a cooling trend.

For argument’s sake, lets say we are still warming. The fact is, however, we are talking about less than 2 degrees of warming, on average, over the past 100 years. That’s not insignificant, but it’s also not as catastrophic as some would have you believe. The truth is, this is not the first time the earth’s climate has undergone substantial warming – or cooling.

I also don’t dispute that it’s probably a good idea to start reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and neither does the U.S. Chamber.

Most scientists believe carbon emissions are contributing to climate degradation and I respect them for their work. I also respect the scientists who point out the fact that the earth had much higher levels of carbon in the atmosphere long before combustion engines and the widespread use of fossil fuels.

As far as I can tell the Chamber’s two biggest offenses in the climate-change debate were opposing the Kyoto Protocols and the Obama administration’s “cap and trade,” proposal to limit carbon emissions in certain types of manufacturing.

The truth is the Clinton-Gore administration never even sent the Kyoto Protocols to the U.S. Senate for a vote. Outraged by the extreme demands of the Protocols, however, a leading Democrat, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, forced a “sense of the Senate” vote on the Kyoto plan. The sense of the Senate was to reject the Protocols by a unanimous 95-0 vote.

As for the president’s “cap and trade,” proposal, it too met with enormous opposition from Congressional Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress when the idea first surfaced. Senate Democrats never even brought it up for a vote.

Despite all our local efforts to reduce our energy consumption, we are still a tourist town that relies on transporting large numbers of people to our playground where they consume enormous amounts of energy in non-essential recreation and leisure pursuits.

In contrast, the U.S. Chamber advocates for balanced energy policies that would allow our businesses to grow, compete and put people back to work.

I wonder if any of the people outraged over the ACRA decision realize just how silly we must look and sound to the millions Americans who are simply trying to hold onto their jobs so they can keep food on their table and a roof over their heads.


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