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Get real on energy, for our children

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    http://www.denverpost.com/framework/0,1413,36~158~2233517,00.html Article Published: Friday, June 25, 2004 guest commentary Get real on energy By Dave Bowden
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2004
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      http://www.denverpost.com/framework/0,1413,36~158~2233517,00.html

      Article Published: Friday, June 25, 2004

      guest commentary
      Get real on energy
      By Dave Bowden
      Denver

      What will our children be thinking when they look back
      at us 50 years from now? Will they applaud our
      foresight in creating a sustainable society - or scold
      us for our wasteful ways?

      Citizens in our state will soon be asked to make an
      important decision on the Colorado Renewable Energy
      Initiative. It's a gradual increase in clean energy
      generation from wind and solar power, offsetting
      electricity from polluting coal plants.

      The measure is a modest and achievable call for our
      state's seven largest utilities to make 10 percent of
      our electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
      Sixteen other states across America have implemented
      these sensible guidelines to protect public health and
      promote our national security.

      America, with 5 percent of the world's population,
      consumes 25 percent of the global energy supply. The
      majority of our oil is imported, much of it from
      unstable and hostile areas. Projections call for a
      slow, worldwide depletion of petroleum over several
      decades.

      What about electricity use? America has plenty of
      inexpensive coal, and Colorado utilities generate 83
      percent of our juice by burning it. An increasing
      amount of our electricity is also generated by
      price-volatile natural gas (methane), driving up
      demand, raising the cost and competing with your home
      furnace for fuel. All these fossil fuels - oil,
      methane and coal - are the product of ancient
      processes, created over millions of years. We are
      burning them in a geological instant. They will never
      be replaced. We breathe the toxic pollutants that
      these fuels generate, some visible, others not so
      apparent.

      That stew of particulates lodges in our lungs,
      creating a sharp increase in respiratory ailments like
      asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. But what is
      invisible - and truly insidious - are the billions of
      tons of carbon dioxide that is very likely changing
      Earth's climate. The scientific jury is still out on
      exactly how those gases will affect many vital areas
      on which our society and economy depend.

      After considering these issues of national security,
      air pollution, bad health effects, depletion, and
      expense - let's look at the power of the sun and wind.
      We can capture those in our own backyards. They
      generate no pollution. The sun will shine for another
      few billion years. The wind often blows steadily
      across the Eastern Plains. The price is right: free.

      Mile-high Colorado is ablaze with sunlight an average
      330 days a year, yet very few of our homes have
      features to capture that abundant energy. Instead, we
      burn methane or use electric heat to stay warm,
      missing out on simple techniques to use the sun's
      rays. For example, solar buildings use ancient
      techniques from Mesa Verde: They face south, where
      thermal mass like stone that's exposed to the sun
      retains heat for many hours. When shaded in the
      summer, it stays cool. Solar thermal panels collect
      the sun's energy and circulate heated fluid for space
      heating and hot water. Solar photovoltaic panels,
      which generate emission-free electricity, are cheaper
      than running the grid down miles of rural roads. In
      the city, that juice can be sold back to Xcel.
      Overall, the key to economical solar energy is
      integrating these systems into the building when it's
      constructed or renovated, so the cost is amortized
      into the mortgage. The net savings to homeowners can
      be substantial.

      Wind power is now the world's fastest-growing source
      of electricity. High-tech utility-scale turbines now
      generate electricity cheaper than polluting coal
      plants, using no water. The products of continual
      innovation, they're able to capture winds that vary
      from a modest breeze to a gusty 50 mph.

      Typically located in rural areas, they offer
      significant economic development opportunities for
      farmers and ranchers in hard-hit communities. Earlier
      this year, Lamar embraced a large wind farm.

      Solar and wind power only top the list of many other
      renewable energy technologies: biomass fuels can be
      derived from plant materials, and sustainably
      generated electricity for electrolysis produces clean-
      burning hydrogen that could replace gasoline.

      Fortunately, we have the tools and the clean,
      inexhaustible sources to reverse the status-quo of
      fossil fuel consumption. The bad news is that we have
      not had the collective will to change. America faces
      stark choices on energy sources and their use. Will we
      continue to burn finite resources - or will we use
      nature's clean, renewable energy? Our children might
      want answers to those questions right now.

      Dave Bowden is president of the Colorado Renewable
      Energy Society. More about energy and sustainability
      can be learned at the Colorado Renewable Energy
      Conference, June 25-27 at the University of Denver.
      For information, go to http://cres-energy.org or call
      303-806-5317.


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