Aspen, CORE: Thumbs Up For National Climate Plan

Jul 11, 2013

Last month, when President Barack Obama rolled out a national climate change initiative, a number of decision makers in the Roaring Fork Valley were listening closely.  The President’s plans to cap carbon emissions and boost energy efficiency are in line with much of what has been routine here for years.  Lucy Emerson-Bell is with CORE, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency.

“And we watched the announcement together on a projector screen. “There was definitely relief. There was also a lot of applause. You know we were really surprised I think. We were excited, and also had a lot of hope.”

President Barack Obama announces a climate action plan. June 25th, 2013.
Credit Whitehouse.gov

Emerson-Bell says CORE is the most excited about, appropriately enough, how the plan will require increases in energy efficiency.

“So with new, higher efficiency standards, we’ll see new appliances that save more energy, and those are the ones that at CORE we offer rebates for. It might seem somewhat negligible, but it’s a small action that can lead to substantial reductions in energy demand.”

The President’s plan also expands something called the Better Buildings Challenge.  It is aimed at improving the efficiency of buildings by 2020. Another key provision is that carbon emissions from coal power plants will be reduced. Many of these measures have long ago been adopted by the City of Aspen.  The city, in part through its Canary initiative, has been cutting its carbon emissions while increasing the use of renewable energy. Elyse Hottel is right at the forefront of that effort.

“One of the things that he focused on was renewable energy, and of course that’s something that the Aspen Electric Municipal Utility has been really focused on, trying to meet 2015 goal of being 100% renewable and having some stumbling blocks along the way."

Hottel is Aspen’s Environmental Initiatives Project Coordinator. The city still shy of meeting that goal. Barriers point to the trickiness that comes with government efforts to force change.  Guidelines and regulations to minimize climate change are not simple mandates to craft.  This became clear in Aspen when the city attempted to build a hydroelectric plant.  Many residents weren’t convinced it was the right idea. Again, Elyse Hottel.

“Obviously one of the things I’m referring to is the castle Creek Energy Center, you know it had some really strong benefits, in terms of renewable energy but there were also some folks that felt that not all of the issues were being addressed, that it could be detrimental to the rivers, and so you know you have to listen to your political constituency.”

Hottel says politics can complicate climate change mitigation.

“For instance I think that Obama talked about two nuclear power plants come online and there’s a lot of opposition to nuclear.”

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron agrees.  He says he understands the delicate balancing act of finding solutions and navigating politics.

“Just as a citizen of the United States, and an outdoorsman in Colorado, and someone who climbs fourteens and stands on top of those fourteeners and breathes the fresh air, I was appreciative of the President’s bold action.”

And, like President Obama, Mayor Skadron says tackling climate change is not just a scientific issue-- it is also a moral one.