Letter: Let’s demand a clean, green economy

If you are like me, then you are concerned about all of the drilling now taking place all over the country. It seems my backyard is now at risk to the booming energy industry.

Every day I read a news story about another fellow citizen’s land being exploited by more drilling. Just recently, an article in the Glenwood Post Independent revealed the intention of another drilling company to drill exploratory holes into Thompson Divide, a pristine watershed that includes genetically pure populations of cutthroat trout and is the source of my drinking water.

Thompson Divide is critical winter range for a number of species, including deer, elk and lynx, which is listed on the endangered species list, as is cutthroat trout. This area of land already has been evaluated for its economic impact to the surrounding communities. Collectively, hunting, fishing, ranching and recreation in the Thompson Divide area support nearly 300 jobs and $30 million in annual economic output for our local communities. These numbers do not include the cost for ecosystem services that Thompson Divide provides. Clean water and clean air, as well as providing critical habitat for a number of wildlife species, are all services that Thompson Divide provides.

The sad reality is that the newer method of drilling, called fracking, is not required to comply with clean air and water regulations. Therefore, a true cost accounting for this industry’s pollution has not been done. Our environment and our health are at increasing risk. These risks are costly and impact all of us.

We, the taxpaying public, do not profit from fossil-fuel extraction. We should not be responsible for these costs. The extraction industries are making grotesque profits, and we are left to pay for their pollution. The extraction industry should bear the burden of true cost for the negative externalities associated with their activities.

The Roaring Fork Valley has a committed group of people who have come together to form the Citizens Climate Lobby. The purposes of the Citizens Climate Lobby are to create the political will for a stable climate and to empower individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power. Their strategy includes a method for removing the burden of cost away from the public and placing it onto the extraction industry.

If you also are concerned, like I am, about climate change, which is the result of burning fossil fuels, the strategies of Citizens Climate Lobby will address both of these concerns. Their legislative proposal of a carbon fee and dividend will both place the burden of true cost onto the extraction industry and provide a path away from greenhouse-gas emissions.

Carbon-fee and -dividend legislation puts a fee on the amount of carbon dioxide in fossil fuels. This fee is assessed at the source of the fuel: at the mine, well or port of entry. The fee starts out low and increases annually in a predictable manner until green energy is competitive with fossil fuel. The fee is collected and 100 percent reimbursed to all citizens, shielding them from the financial impact of the transition to a clean-energy economy. Because the fee (and the price of fossil fuel) predictably goes up over time, it sends a clear price signal to begin using fossil fuels more efficiently or replace them with green energy. Investment flows to green technologies, and the rising cost of fossil fuels increases the demand for these products, making them even less expensive as they reach mass production. This clear, easy-to-understand price signal (increasing fossil-fuel costs and decreasing green-technology costs) drives the transition to a green economy. This transition will reduce greenhouse gases while stabilizing our climate.

We can choose to pay for the negative externalities associated with the fossil-fuel industry ourselves, or we can choose to place that burden on the extraction industry. Either way, polluted air and water, along with climate change, will cost us valuable resources. On the other hand, if we follow the lead of Citizen Climate Lobby and demand a transition to a cleaner, greener economy, we can avoid many of those costs. 

Jon Plybon

Glenwood Springs