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Ritter in Aspen: Nation, state seeing the green light

Katie Redding
kredding@aspentimes.com
Aspen CO, Colorado
John Colson/The Aspen TimesWalter Isaacson, right, moderates a discussion between Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, left, and Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, on the new energy economy, Thursday in Aspen. Both Ritter and Sutley argued that working to combat climate change will also create new jobs.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” Shifting to cleaner energy will create jobs, though not without some growing pains, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday, preaching to a choir of environmentalists sipping biodegradable cups of coffee at the Aspen Environment Forum.

Ritter pointed out, even in the recession, he had just spent the week celebrating two new manufacturing plants in Colorado that will produce wind and solar technology ” and more than 1,500 new energy economy jobs.

Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, also discussed the White House’s plans to create clean energy jobs. She claimed the cap-and-trade regulations proposed in the new budget will drive the creation of green jobs.



Sutley argued that the stimulus package contains an “unprecedented federal investment in clean energy” aimed to stimulate the economy not only now but in the future.

“This is the beginning of a serious transition,” she said. “It is an opportunity for us. It is a way for us to think about retooling the economy broadly. People will look back at the stimulus package in years to come as the first step in this direction.”



But Ritter also acknowledged the new energy economy isn’t all good news. A carbon tax, for example, will raise the price of energy and prompt government to figure out how to keep it affordable.

And ultimately, he said, no one can determine the full cost of making the transition to clean energy. The answer probably won’t come until carbon footprints shrink seriously in pursuit of goals like Ritter’s plan to reduce Colorado’s carbon footprint by 80 percent by the year 2050, the governor said.

But when one audience member pointed out that there is also a significant cost for inaction on climate change, Sutley agreed.



“Mayors and governors, they’re already dealing with climate change,” she said, noting, for example, that wildlife managers in Southern California say there is no longer a “wildfire season” but instead wildfires year round.

When several questioners observed that politicians seemed tempted to lead with talk of renewable energy rather than old-fashioned efficiency or conservation, Ritter and Sutley agreed. Sutley noted that ever since Jimmy Carter put on a sweater, energy conservation seems to have a bad reputation among politicians.

Ritter said he tends to lead with new energy because talk of job creation often convinces those not swayed by pure environmentalism.

“In a political world, you have to sell the benefits when you’re in a situation where you’re changing,” he said.


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