January 18, 2010

The Kyoto Protocol…in Boulder. ~ Claire Lochridge.

On Thursday, January 14, 2010 I attended the first lecture of the Global Warming Solutions Series sponsored by Clean Energy Action Colorado.  I learned a lot.  As a Boulder resident new to local energy policy I thought I’d put this information out there for others interested in what’s happening on the green side of things, but who are still trying to expand their energy policy vocab.

The title of the lecture given by Susan L. Perkins, Renewable Energy Attorney was “Democratizing Our Energy Supply.”  She outlined the formal actions taken by Boulder in the past 10 years to combat climate change, and was complimentary of these actions.  The main point of the talk then turned to the issue of whether the city of Boulder should renew a 20-year franchise contract with energy provider Xcel in the summer of 2010.  What drives this issue is the improbability of meeting Kyoto Protocol* (see below) due to Xcel’s fuel mix.

Ok, I thought, Xcel has done its part to take steps towards clean energy, such as providing rebates for residential and commercial solar arrays (a series of solar panels) and agreeing to reduce emissions from some of their coal plants.  As it turns out though, we could be doing a whole lot more.

Here is the breakdown of our emissions and energy sources: 74% of Boulder’s carbon emissions are attributed to residential and industrial gas and electricity, which is provided by Xcel.  The other 26% of emissions come from solid waste and transportation.  98% of Xcel’s energy is produced by coal and gas.  The remaining 2% is energy from renewable resources.  That 2% tax on your power bill?  All that exists to fund these renewable energy sources.  As a newcomer to these facts and figures and policies, I was still able to figure that 2% wouldn’t go very far when the target emission reduction is around 24% of 1990 figures by 2012**.  How then, do we reduce our toxic emissions and meet Kyoto Protocol with this mere 2%?  Even if we stop driving and pooping (the sources of 26% of emissions) we don’t meet those green goals.

Well, Mrs. Perkins insinuated that Boulder could break free from the contract with Xcel and work on finding our own energy sources.  Maybe they don’t all have to come from one company, but could be found in multiple clean energy sources.  We could then control the amount of our power that comes from coal and natural gas and find a greener balance of resources.  Also, people were concerned that the power in Boulder would go out should we choose not to renew the contract.  It is not feasible to have all of our energy needs accounted for independently by this summer.  Apparently, Xcel is obligated to provide power to Boulder, contract or not.  It’s just that we enter into a sort of limbo with the company, similar to using a phone service month-to-month rather than contractually.

When we take this issue into consideration, we need to remember that Boulder citizens have a reputation for being mindful of the environment.  After all, Boulder was recognized as one of the cities of the world capable of leading the fight against greenhouse gases when two of our city leaders were invited to the most recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.  There they put their heads together with international leaders as the industrial nations of the world gathered to address the current plight of our atmosphere.  Wow- if we can figure out how to supply our own energy and therefore meet Kyoto Protocol, we join forces with the world in a common goal.

As a seemingly green-minded city, do we continue to allow ourselves to be bound to a company that is unable to meet Kyoto Protocol or do we step up and hold ourselves accountable for maintaining a world-renowned standard?

*Kyoto Protocol:  adopted in December 1997 in Kyoto Japan and entered into force February 2005, it is “a legally binding agreement under which industrialized cities will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (kyotoprotocol.com).”  The goal is to lower overall emissions from six greenhouse gases by 2012.  Boulder actually elected in 2002 to reduce emissions by 7% of what they were in 1990 by the year 2012.

**google search, “City of Boulder Climate Action Plan”

Interested in learning more?

  • ·Search www.cleanenergyaction.org and check out the Global Warming Solutions Series for upcoming events.
  • ·Also www.bouldercolorado.gov and choose Local Environmental Action Division tab.
  • ·Attend “Bringing Copenhagen Home” talk tonight, Monday, January 18, 2010 at the West Senior Center at 909 Arapahoe Ave in Boulder for an update on what we can do!
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