The Top 10 reasons our community should pursue a clean energy future 

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click to enlarge Only the Church of Money allows for environmental degradation. - SHUTTERSTOCK/DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Shutterstock/Dustin Glatz
  • Only the Church of Money allows for environmental degradation.

10. Someday in the future, all of our energy will come from renewable sources. Being proactive toward that future will be better than being reactive years down the road. Fossil-fuel sources are becoming increasingly expensive, difficult and destructive to recover. The amount of money and energy it takes to get oil, gas and coal out of the ground continues to rise. This future is approaching quickly.

9. Global Threat Analyses put out by the military, economists and think tanks indicate that competition for global energy resources will continue to rise. Locally, Fort Carson seeks to be a "net zero" installation — producing as much energy as it consumes — in a few years, reducing its dependence on nonrenewable energy systems. As the computer in the movie War Games concluded, "The only way to win is not to play."

8. Renewable energy systems have fewer negative environmental implications overall. Years ago a local science teacher estimated his photovoltaic system had a 16-year energy payback period — the time of operation needed to recover the energy that went into making the system. This has dropped to four years today — see 1.usa.gov/1IWjuZ4. His system will produce for more than 50 years. As technology and material science evolve, the ability to create clean energy systems will increase.

7. Why is it OK to raise rates to cover the increasing expense of buying fuel and installing more and more emission systems? This was the cause of rates going up 5 percent early this year. The rates for the typical home and small business are set to go up 2.3 percent for 2016. So why is increasing rates to cover this OK, but raising rates to break the dependence is not?

6. We would very much like to attract and keep young entrepreneurs here. Yet they want to live in a community that has their future and their health in mind. I'd bet a sawbuck that nearly all of this demographic would not want to live in a community that dedicates itself to endless pollution and rate increases due to more emission controls and depleting resources.

5. All the excuses to not go down the clean, renewable path are fading away. It is the human endeavor to solve problems, not avoid them. It won't be very long before a creative effort figures out how we can power our community with 50 percent renewable energy. Then we'll figure out how to use renewables to power our base-load electricity needs with fossil fuels picking up the slack. Don't say we can't, say, "How can we?"

4. Renewable energy does not cost more. A recent study of the electric rates of the Top 10 states with renewables — based on share of total electricity generated from all renewable sources — shows no statistical difference compared to those with the least. This will change as the cost of renewable energy continues to go down while the cost of fossil fuels and their emission systems goes up. If Colorado Springs Utilities customers who subscribe to the 100 percent wind program from Xcel Energy weren't also required to pay for emission control systems and other Utilities expenses related to coal-generation facilities, their rates would likely be lower than the rates of those not subscribed. Renewable energy systems owned by Utilities, including six hydroelectric units, will have the most stable rates in the future, with little to no annual cost increase.

3. The smart folks want a different product. Fort Carson, Manitou city government, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado College and many others have opted out, or plan to opt out, of the fossil-fuel generation of today. Technology will make it easier for users to opt out of the Utilities electric system entirely, leaving the rest to pay even higher rates.

2. Based on the Toxic Release Inventory data that Colorado Springs Utilities submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2012 (1.usa.gov/1JQ2ENk), the coal-burning Martin Drake Power Plant emits the following from its chimneys: barium, dioxin(s), hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, vanadium, all totaling 61,600 pounds annually. Other chemicals include arsenic, cobalt, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. The chimneys don't eliminate them, they just release them high enough that there is some dilution. But those chemicals (being heavier than air) fall quickly back to earth after leaving the chimney. And not reported is the 4.5 billion pounds of CO2 annually.

1. Polluting our air and water is not a Christian value. I only know of one spiritual or logical system that doesn't subscribe to the obligation that we take care of our natural systems so that they take care of us. I've read the environmental positions of Evangelicals, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, Buddhists, Mormons and others. That one system that doesn't share these values is the Church of Money. Despite all the positive rationale for a clean energy future, the one we're stuck on is money, even though that additional cost to pursue a clean energy future might be the cost of a single movie ticket each month for a utilities customer.

What future do you want? This is your utility, get involved. Visit csu.org/Pages/eirp-r.aspx to track CSU's current Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) and express yourself to allcouncil@springsgov.com.

Scott Harvey is a professional engineer and prefers to breathe clean air.

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