Gleanings from published works from a Colorado newspaper to the Economist
“I think that what’s coming can be jarring. Some of the people in my community have not fully accepted the change that’s coming.”
— Tom Kleinschnitz, Craig City Council member, in a Jan. 15 story by the Grand Junction Sentinel about the coming transition of Craig from a coal-based community to something still to be determined.
The story covered now-familiar ground: first one of its three coal-burning units is scheduled to close by 2025 with the following two by 2030 (along with two coal-burning units in Hayden, located about 15 miles away, by 2028).
Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the primary owner and operator of the Craig Generating Station, alone accounted for a nearly a quarter of the assessed valuation of Moffat County, where Craig is located. That power plant along with coal operations account for more than half of the property tax.
“We need some innovative thinking, out of the box, trying to find the best solutions for our community,” said Kleinschnitz.
This walk away from coal has already begun. The Trapper Mine’s employment has dropped by nearly half, from 185 people when the coal plant closure was announced three years ago, to 99 at the end of September. The exclusive market for the mine is the plant.
Employment at another mine, Colowyo, has dropped from 219 to 176 in the last three years. And at the power plant itself, employment has dropped from 250 to 150.
What will fill the void? Tri-State at a recent gathering of stakeholders in the early stages of the next electric resource plan outlined a great variety of options, from small nuclear-modular reactors to molten salt storage to green hydrogen and a new generation of batteries.
In Craig, there is some focus on potential for development of the tourism economy, with an emphasis on water recreation involving the Yampa River as well as mountain bike and motorized trails.
See also these Big Pivots stories from August 2020:
“Setting ‘climate-neutral’ goals (‘I promise to quit smoking by 2030!’) and then buying offsets to get there has become such the norm in the sustainable business world that if you’re not doing it, you seem corrupt. In fact, it’s just the opposite. ‘Net-zero’ or ‘climate-neutral’ as a concept is so hard to pin down, let alone achieve any version of, that it’s flimflammery by definition.”
— Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president of sustainability, writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in an essay titled “The False Promise of Corporate Neutrality.”
Schendler has long been skeptical of carbon offsets, instead wanting companies with high-minded goals to do “something that is actually impactful.” He outlines two broad categories.
One is actual work in reducing carbon emissions, such as replacing windows to save energy or replacing gas and diesel vehicles in company fleets with electrified versions.
The second is ”very publicly wielding power to support policies that drive large-scale change.”
He cites Walmart’s lobbying to support the Inflation Reduction Act, “the most important piece of climate legislation in history.” Op/eds in the Wall Street Journal could also be advocacy.
“From an environmental perspective, buying offs—credits for carbon reduction elsewhere—is highly questionable,” he says. “Why? Take tree-planting as just one example: It has proven devilishly hard to demonstrate that the trees you protect will stay alive over the long term, that they weren’t already legally protected but sold as offsets anyway, or that their preservation didn’t ensure that nearby trees would be cut instead.”
Readers on the Stanford website (their affiliations unidentified) mostly agreed:
“Schendler nails it here—offsets are at best distracting and at worst counter-productive,” wrote Andrew Jones.
“What’s notable about this piece is not the newness of the message – Auden and I have been delivering this message in a variety of forms and venues for well over a decade. What’s actually most notable is how little discussion and change has resulted, including with respect to corporate policy advocacy,” wrote Mark Trexler.
Others thought Schendler overstated his case.
“Offsets are the right first steps” in eliminating fossil fuels from their business models,” said Hal Hamilton.
Net-zero and carbon neutrality are often used interchangeably, pointed out Aspen’s Matthew Hamilton. “Very different strategies.”
In an article titled “What is the difference between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero?”, Greenly defines carbon neutral as an activity or a company which offsets the same amount of carbon or greenhouse gases that they emit. Carbon neutral means that emissions produced and offset are equivalent. On its own, it won’t keep the world under the 1.5°C target, set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Net zero (with reference to net zero commitment) is defined as reducing all greenhouse gas emissions as much as humanly possible, offsetting only the essential emissions that remain. Net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions is designed to keep us on track for a global temperature rise of less than 1.5°C compared with pre-industrial levels.
“In 2021, researchers at Yale University found that Americans associate natural gas with ‘clean’ and methane gas with ‘pollution’—even though natural gas is almost entirely methane.”
— Susan Joy Hassoll, a former Colorado resident, writing in the Feb. 1 issue of Scientific American in a story titled “The Right Words are Crucial to Solving Climate Change.”
Joy Hassoll contends that the transition to clean energy is happening too slowly to avoid the worst effects of climate change – and that the language and messages should be altered. In some cases, the words themselves matter. For example, she recommends using the phrase “heat-trapping pollution” instead of “greenhouse gases” when communicating with the general public.
She also describes challenges: disinformation, misconceptions, and the pigeonholing of climate change as an environmental issue. One misconception is that “it’s too late to act.” As for the pigeonholing, she points out that “everyone cares about something affected by the climate emergency.”
Why does this matter?
“Research published in 2018 in Science suggests large-scale social changes require the active engagement of about 25% of the population. Surveys suggest that in the U.S. we are rapidly approaching that point on climate… Addressing climate communication challenges could help us build enough political will in time to blunt the worst climate change effects.”
“Starting in 2023, we will advocate at the federal, state, and local levels for policies that curtail greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate a shift to renewable energy sources, and establish a clean energy economy.”
— Kate Wilson, Raj Basi, Jay Scambio, and Darcie Renn, representatives of ski companies Vail Resorts, Powdr, Boyne Resorts, and Alterra, writing in The Colorado Sun on Dec. 31 in an op/ed title “Climate Change is the most critical business issue ski resorts face.”
The four ski companies, who have created something called Mountain Collab, declared a “focus on energy by championing the accelerated use, development, and availability of renewable energy resources across our resorts and communities.” Their most demonstrable program will be in Summit County, where they will focus on recycling of plastic drink bottles.
“I believe you can name any goal in either energy or in climate, and it’s being blocked by permitting right now.”
— John Curtis, U.S. congressman from Utah, in The Economist, Feb. 4 issue under a headline of “America needs a new environmentalism.”
The article in which Curtis was quoted used the proposed TransWest Express, the Anschutz Corporation’s proposed line from Wyoming to the Nevada-California border, as an example of how U.S. environmental laws needed overhaul. The same case was made by “The Bix Fix” authors Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis in a December interview with Big Pivots.
The story was part of a package in the magazine under the headline of “Big, Green and Mean: Joe Biden’s plan to remark America’s economy.”
The lead story includes a quote from Brian Deese, the head of the National Economic Council, who points out that the Inflation Reduction Act and other bold laws are not the first time the federal government has made big investments in strategic industries or infrastructure. Other outlays in the 20th century included rural electrification, interstate highways and the space race. It invested roughly 6-8% of GDP a year in such things at the time. The Biden subsidies for favored industries amount to around 0.5% of GDP.
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