Energy a DNC theme | SteamboatToday.com

Energy a DNC theme

Ritter joins Sen. Salazar in setting goals for renewable industry

Mike Lawrence

— Colorado’s leading Democrats continued to exuberantly promote the state’s developing renewable industry Tuesday, spotlighting solar and wind energy on the grand stage of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

In a park at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Gov. Bill Ritter stood in front of a 130-foot-long wind turbine blade, manufactured in Windsor, and said Danish blade producer Vestas is creating 2,500 jobs in Colorado with $700 million invested in the state in coming years. As Ritter spoke, across the park, groups including the Colorado Renewable Energy Society displayed solar power demonstrations, including solar ovens – essentially cooking over reflective metal plates – as a blazing sun beat down on the convention’s second day.

“We haven’t even gotten close to reaching the envelope of what is possible with renewable energy,” Ritter said, citing the renewable energy industry’s link between the environment and the economy. “It’s about jobs.”

Five hundred of those jobs have been created in Pueblo, Ritter said. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from the 7th Congressional District, said 1,350 renewable jobs are coming to Brighton.

“We’re starting a revolution,” added U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs. Udall said wind turbines should be “planted like trees” across Colorado.

Touting renewable energy and its link to a stronger economy has become a theme for Colorado Democrats at the convention, as Democrats from across the West paint the entire region as a changing, increasingly progressive part of the country.

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The talk about renewables is at a grandiose level that suggests a tipping point in the way Americans produce and consume energy. Shortly after the Vestas presentation, Ritter ducked inside the Center for Performing Arts to take part in an energy discussion, part of the ongoing Rocky Mountain Roundtable series this week.

The discussion’s moderator, Vijay Vaitheeswaran of The Economist, said three “megatrends” are pointing the way to a cultural shift in energy creation and use: “innovative public policies” from governing officials; a new, market-minded environmentalism that sees economic benefit as the primary incentive for renewable development; and a convergence of technologies that allows once far-fetched ideas – such as hybrid cars – to become increasingly practical realities.

“We’re entering, I would argue, a new golden age of innovation,” Vaitheeswaran said.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles said he was slow to realize the importance of conservation ethics – global warming seemed “far off in the future,” he said, like something “that would happen to Phoenix way before it happened to Seattle.”

Then, in 2004-05, a dry winter led to a canceled ski season in parts of Washington state, along with a vastly depleted snowpack and water supply.

That spurred Nickels to create the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which now includes more than 850 mayors across the U.S.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, in a Monday panel and again Tuesday, stressed that the future of energy has to include all sources, including natural gas, oil and coal.

That’s a vital argument for Peabody Energy, the St. Louis-based company that owns Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Co. Outside the energy discussion, Peabody had a pile of informational booklets touting coal as America’s mainstay fuel. To replace the energy resources coal provides, the booklets said, solar power would have to increase its production 4,000 times – wind production would need to multiply 75 times, according to Peabody.

Ritter said there is no competitive harm in the development of Colorado’s renewable energy industry.

“If you increase renewables, it’s not at the expense of other resources,” Ritter said.

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