Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

I don’t think the Castle Creek hydroelectric project makes logical sense. One of the goals of reducing greenhouse gases is to preserve the ecosystem. Part of that is to keep global warming from compromising our beautiful streams and rivers.

How, then, does it make sense to purposely compromise Castle and Maroon creeks today so that they might not be compromised by global warming tomorrow? It’s like pulling a tooth to prevent the possibly of it getting knocked out someday.

If the answer is that it is for some greater good, then it might make sense. But this isn’t the case with our proposed hydroelectric plant. Nobody can honestly say that it, by itself, will make even a minuscule difference in curbing global warming.

I know. The idea is that the sum of all these little things will eventually make a big difference. But we can’t forget that the cumulative effect of the consequences of doing these little things could have a bigger negative effect. You have to look at both sides of the river. Think of it this way: If a miniature hydroelectric plant were constructed in every pristine mountain stream in the world, might the freshwater aquatic ecosystem suffer to such a degree as to outweigh the benefits of the clean energy produced? I mean, in total that’s a lot of concrete, construction and diversion at nature’s headwaters.

And this brings me to a second point. It’s the old slogan, “Think globally, act locally,” its popularity proved by bumper stickers everywhere. If we are going to make a positive interplanetary impact, we really do need to begin at home and work out from there. If it doesn’t make sense considering only local effects, it probably doesn’t make sense to do it for the world.

When talking global impacts of tiny measures, the sum of all the positives and all the negatives becomes extremely difficult to reconcile, and the issue becomes impossibly convoluted. In the grand scheme, neither the Aspen hydroelectric plant nor any of its negative effects on Castle and Maroon creeks amount to anything. So how do you judge it? You have to break it down to what is directly observable and measurable in front of you.

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The effect of this hydroelectric project is much easier to evaluate by standing on the bank of the dammed river. Streamflow will be impacted for certain. Greenhouse-gas reduction will realistically be nil – completely immeasurable and unobservable. So nobody gains, and all of us who enjoy Castle and Maroon creeks in their current natural states, plus the creatures that live in or near them, lose. By this local litmus test, the hydroelectric plant comes up acidic and corrodes the overall effort to make our world better.

Lastly, in the battle to clean up the planet, we need to be much more efficient with the limited funding available for it. The hydroelectric plant is projected to provide enough power to supply maybe 500 houses per year eventually under the most ideal conditions. The cost to finish the plant is expected to be about $3.6 million. For that kind of money, we could purchase a 2-megawatt wind turbine that is proven to produce enough electricity to supply 600 to 800 homes for a year. So why not do the wind thing?

Yeah, I know – where the heck would we put those awfully ugly, super-tall windmill doohickeys? Well, how about in the West Texas desert, in the wastelands of Nevada or even out at sea? That’s where they belong and work best.

We are not so scientifically simpleminded that we need to see the actual products of our good work in our own backyards to reassure ourselves we are making a difference. We don’t need a symbolic hydroelectric plant impacting our wilderness in order to ease our consciences.

If we have $3.6 million to throw down to make the planet better, we are smart enough to spend it in a way that does it best. It doesn’t matter if the clean energy is generated here or in Death Valley. It doesn’t matter if the clean energy supplies homes in our West End or Midelfart, Denmark. It’s all the same planet, same air, same ecosystem! Right? If we have money that can be better used to make a bigger difference being put to work somewhere else, we ought to send it there and put up a plaque in the mall that tells everyone what we did.

If you just love construction just for construction’s sake, we can make it a really big plaque.