Winds of political change shifting on #climate issues in Colorado, experts say — Real Vail

Photovoltaic Solar Array
Photovoltaic Solar Array

From Real Vail (David O. Williams):

The Guardian newspaper this week produced a report stating voters, especially young ones, are increasingly dismayed that climate change has been “the missing issue of the 2016 campaign.”

In Colorado, that means turning a cold shoulder to global warming, an issue that a 2013 Yale study found is “very or somewhat important” to 73 percent of Coloradans – 70 percent of whom believe climate change is real.

“There are fewer and fewer people who believe climate change isn’t real, and fewer people who believe that humans don’t have some role in causing it,” former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter recently told

In his recent book “Powering Forward,” Ritter says a transition away from coal as the state’s primary resource for generating electricity is inevitable because Coloradans increasingly prefer cleaner-burning natural gas and carbon-free renewables resources such as wind, solar and biomass. But he argues the state owes hard-hit coal-mining communities a “Just Transition.”

Many residents of struggling coal towns on Colorado’s Western Slope, from Hayden to Delta, blame the climate policies of Ritter and his successor Gov. John Hickenlooper for undermining state coal production. But both men counter that market forces – primarily the abundance of cheap natural gas and ever-more affordable renewables – are driving down demand for coal.

The perfect storm of coal company bankruptcies and plummeting natural gas and renewable prices is being driven by those market forces more than state and federal policies, Ritter argues in a recent story produced by And he adds that even conservative lawmakers are beginning to realize the value of promoting renewable resources.

Ritter, who now serves as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, has been working with 13 western states on plans to comply with the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which is stuck in a legal quagmire that ultimately may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. That makes November’s election all the more critical, Ritter says.

“Certainly, as we’ve seen by [Antonin] Scalia’s death, appointment of the next justice could mean a lot about what happens even at state level on environmental and energy policy, so a lot of this is still up in play, but understand that even with all of that happening, states are doing a variety of really important things in transitioning to clean energy,” Ritter said.

Ritter points to a recent clean energy accord signed by 17 governors, four of them Republicans.

“States with very conservative governors are doing what I would consider to be some very important things,” Ritter said. “Partly that may be because they realize the business opportunities that are available, they realize that the price of wind and solar have come down so dramatically that while they’re still intermittent, they’re fairly cheap.”

Climate concerns aside, mproving technology plays a big role in that transition, he adds.

“They realize there’s great research and development on the energy storage front, so if you get to a point where you combine rooftop solar with storage, people are actually able to provide their own power from the sun, and that makes them independent in many respects, and there are a lot of conservatives that like that idea,” Ritter said.

The presidential election features a likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who outright denies global climate change is happening, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

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