Colorado groups rally for climate change proposal | VailDaily.com

Colorado groups rally for climate change proposal

JUDITH KOHLER
Associated Press Writer

DENVER, Colorado ” People from environmental, agriculture, church and hunting and fishing groups in Colorado say a federal bill dealing with climate change would help create clean-energy jobs and reduce the effects of global warming.

The representatives gathered Thursday at a downtown Denver park where Cherry Creek flows into the South Platte River to urge approval of the bill, which is moving through the U.S. House. They said the measure mandating the use of more renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gases would build on Colorado’s growing “new energy economy.”

Keith Hay of Environment Colorado said the bill passed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce would protect Colorado’s “water, wildlife and, in fact, our way of life.”

Other speakers said climate change is a nonpartisan issue that affects all Coloradans and has huge economic implications. Harvey Nyberg of the Colorado Wildlife Federation said hunters and anglers are concerned because they’re increasingly seeing changes in the behavior of big game and fish ” changes that they attribute to warmer weather and water.

“Hunting and fishing are the backbone of the outdoor economy” in Colorado, Nyberg said. “It’s not subject to the boom and bust of other industries.”

Gov. Bill Ritter, who took office in 2007, has promoted developing clean energy sources as ways to enhance the economy and reduce pollution that causes global warming.

Colorado voters became the first in the nation in 2004 to require utilities to get a certain amount of their power from renewable energy. Other states have imposed similar mandates through laws or regulations.

In 2007, the Legislature increased the requirement that utilities get 10 percent of their power from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. Rural electric cooperatives will have to boost their use of renewable energy to 10 percent by 2020.

Speakers at the news conference Thursday said those requirements have helped draw wind, solar and biofuel companies to Colorado.

Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems has a blade-making plant in Windsor, 50 miles north of Denver. It’s building two more plants in Brighton and a factory in Pueblo to build towers for wind turbines.

The federal proposal would require retail electric providers nationwide to meet 6 percent of their demand through a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions would have to be cut by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Industry officials say natural gas can play an important role in dealing with climate change because it’s the cleanest burning fossil fuel. The Denver-based Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States said Thursday that gas-fired power plants are a more affordable option than “expensive government mandates.”

The climate change bill has also drawn criticism from Republicans, who say it will drive up energy prices and damage the economy.

But Mike Bowman, a northeast Colorado farmer, said rural areas can benefit from renewable energy projects and other provisions in the bill. He said one benefit could be compensation for growing crops to help absorb carbon dioxide emissions.

Bowman is on the national steering committee of the group 25×25, which advocates getting 25 percent of the country’s power from renewable sources by 2025.

It will be important to ensure that climate change policy doesn’t hurt poor people through higher energy prices, said Nelson Bock of Colorado Interfaith Power and Light, which promotes energy conservation and efficiency. Bock said the group also wants to make sure “green” jobs are spread around.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue,” Bock said. “It’s also profoundly spiritual.”

“The Earth, our home, is a gift,” he added.