Letter: On Aspen hydro, fracking and ISIS
September 30, 2014
As you deliberate on the residents of Aspen's best alternative-power sources, I urge you to reconsider that the proposed (and fortunately) delayed Aspen hydro project is inefficient, ineffective, will cause more problems than it solves and has unforeseen maintenance and operational costs. Other than that, it is a near-perfect solution, but highly uneconomical. Aspen residents have voiced their majority opinion that this project — lofty in purpose but a likely failure economically — may not be viable.
Is it better to ignore valid calculations that suggest that Aspen hydro is a boondoggle? That it reflects a public that has the audacity to question the religious beliefs of a former mayor who attempted to impose his will on "his people?"
The basic fact is that Aspen hydro will cost us at least twice per kilowatt hour what wind-generated power would cost today (purchased from efficient producers at today's prices). The attraction for this boondoggle is that Aspen hydro is our hydro, and hence beyond reproach, despite the lack of economic viability. It is an "Aspen" thing — not some foreign idea from the less informed.
Future prices are your concern? Well, the huge amount of gas under the U.S. is available here (as are gas deposits in other parts of the world.) Environmentally dangerous? No. With proper and appropriate regulations, fracked gas can be very efficient and leaves much less pollution than other hydrocarbons — it beats big coal!
Those who are against fracking forget the sources of foreign (imported Middle Eastern) energy. Responsible fracking means that we halt sending money to the prime funders of those who behead orange-jumpsuit-wearing Americans. If that scares you, then you want the U.S. to become energy independent quickly. But, so as to not further place a drag on our economy, we need to do so at a reasonable price and within the reasonable future. In November, we get to correct the errant policies that have burdened the U.S. economy struggling to gain its footing after six years of nonsense in Washington.
Aspen can purchase efficient wind-generated power from out of state. The cost to transmit (in bulk) electric power over power lines is much less than the Aspen hydro project. This is so much more economical and "green" than to depend on an Aspen running-water stream (which, by the way, is likely frozen for the months of December through the end of March, one fourth of the year) then to continue on with this defective "solution?" Even gamblers know not to spend "good" money after "bad!" What Aspen has today is sunken costs. City Council, move on to more viable solutions!
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Keep the Hoover Dam; it's the right scale and the water does not freeze in that climate. That running water, and the power it generates, works just fine. Aspen hydro? Come on. Let's get serious. Aspen hydro is the Hoover Dam. It is a backhanded way to increase the base of people beholden to the city of Aspen for their employment and benefits. Surprise!
There are other alternatives to this Aspen hydro boondoggle. Check with our friends at Rocky Mountain Institute and ask for their guidance. Check on commercial advancements and cost reductions available in solar-power technologies. Use some land in Pitkin County downvalley and create a solar energy park with concave (parabolic) mirrors that track the sun as the earth rotates. (This is being done efficiently in Israel.) You also will find that solar panel technology in Germany is making huge strides. We just need people who know how to put the pieces together. I doubt that too many of you on the City Council know how to use a slide rule. Get real independent experts to define and cost out better alternatives. And do us all a favor: Keep Mick out of the discussion.
Then, use your ability to create incentives. Place panels on all city buildings that have a south-facing roof. Require sports stadiums (such as our new art museum) to install solar panels. Give tax incentives to new homes that use solar voltaic.
The new Jewish Community Center on Fifth and Main added solar voltaic panels to its south-facing roof! On its own, without your intervention! Just because we want to be green and reduce our carbon footprint doesn't mean doing stupid things pushed by our former mayor who had a religious epiphany.
Al Gore might weigh in with some advice, too. I mean, his last set of pronouncements made him famous. He cashed out by selling his TV station to the largest per-capita carbon-polluting enterprise in the entire planet — the country of Qatar (you know, the guys funding ISIS — the head choppers).
Miami and Aspen