Small steps in a global effort

Expert emphasizes individual, community work to reduce energy use

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Renewable energy and appeasing gas-guzzling Americans are hot issues -- apparently hot enough to trigger the Olympian Hall fire alarm after Randy Udall's talk Saturday night.

The alarm made conversation after Udall's talk a little difficult, but the message was clear for about 100 people who gathered to hear the energy expert speak at the Yampa Valley Community Alliance's annual meeting.

"It was kind of startling," said Gavin Malia, chairman of the Steamboat Springs Green Team. "It just emphasizes the need for change in our country. ... Hopefully, we can make changes on the local level."

Since 1994, Udall has been the director for the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. The information about the world's energy consumption might have been startling, but Udall emphasized what individuals and communities can do to reduce energy consumption.

"The nation is looking to the Rockies to rescue the nation," Udall said, referring to abundance of wind and solar energy that could be extracted. He said change begins on a local level, and he praised groups such as the Community Alliance that are addressing issues for the long term.

"People are going to need these things explained to them," he said. "Being efficient is really important to Steamboat Springs."

Udall said the nation is facing an energy failure but is predisposed to fail.

"The good news is we only have 38 more months of what I call 'dry drunk syndrome,'" Udall said, with a picture President Bush with a befuddled look on his face projected on the screen behind him. The "dry drunk syndrome" is a phrase Udall coined; it refers to someone who fails in Alcoholics Anonymous because he or she takes the first step but fails at the next 11.

Udall has his heroes in the energy and environmental debates, as well. He refers to the people who address issues that are sometimes too taboo to talk about in a political setting as oracles.

"The only people that can break a taboo in any culture is an oracle," Udall said. "Who are our oracles?" he asked. "I would argue (former Federal Reserve chairman Alan) Greenspan is one of our oracles," he said. Greenspan, Udall said, was brave enough to talk about natural gas and its role in the economy.

Udall also showed examples of advertisements from large corporations such as General Electric and Chevron that promoted energy conservation.

"I think these corporate leaders are beginning to understand," Udall said. "Greenspan broke the taboo on natural gas, and Chevron broke the one on oil, speaking truth to power that no American politician has ever done."

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