Routt County GOP: Implementing County’s climate plan comes at a high cost

Routt County Republicans

Issues of affordable housing, inflation and economic growth are related to what many in Routt County believe is the center of gravity about our future — climate change. And while climate change is real, there is no consensus on the true impact human behavior has on earth’s climate, despite what many in the media and government tell us.

The Routt County Climate Action Plan (CAP) indicates our government leaders are no different. The CAP purports that implementation of 22 strategies will alter human economic behavior and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 35% by 2030 and 74% by 2050. What the CAP doesn’t measure are potential economic and environmental costs and true benefits of its implementation. Let’s look at two big ones.

“Ensure the county supports work to achieve the state’s goal of 100% renewable electricity across Colorado by 2040.” Currently, about 30% of Colorado’s electricity is generated by wind and solar energy. Routt County citizens should know the economic impact on low- and middle-income families as the state increases by 70% its dependency on expensive and intermittent sources of electricity. To compensate for wind intermittency, large battery electric storage systems are required. By some estimates, a battery storage system to compensate for one full day of power would cost 10 times as much as the wind system itself. That’s only one day. What about multiple days?

“Reduce barriers to deployment of renewables (solar, wind, other) through review and modification of codes and policies and tracking and implementation of state and federal support mechanisms.” While the CAP says it would reduce barriers for “renewables,” it is likely that implementation of this strategy will change future zoning and construction policy in favor of wind or solar options and prohibit the use of natural gas for new housing construction. This would greatly increase construction prices and make our current affordable housing and cost of living problems even worse for low- and middle-income families.

And what about the impact on the environment? Wind farms and solar complexes take up huge swaths of land and have an enormous impact on wildlife. According to some sources, wind turbines are now the biggest threat to eagles, falcons, hawks and owls. As many as 600,000 birds and 900,000 bats die annually from colliding with wind turbines.

The raw materials used to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels also have a significant impact on the environment. Wind turbines and solar arrays have a fraction of the lifecycle of hydrocarbon wells and the materials cannot be reused. Wind turbines are made from fiberglass and are the size of commercial aircraft. They must be cut into pieces before they can be discarded in a landfill.

Solar arrays use lead, mercury and other toxic materials that cannot be recycled and must be remediated before landfill disposal. Battery energy storage that is used to compensate for the intermittent nature of wind and solar has a heavy environmental impact because of the caustic chemicals involved in lithium extraction and problems with lithium disposal. To accommodate this, landfills will grow in capacity and encroach further on wildlife habitats.

So, what about the benefits? CAP benefits will be insignificant when viewed in the global context. Even if human behavior changes, to implement the CAP at the county level would alter the climate in a significant way. We must pretend industrial nations like China, India, South Korea and others are applying the same approaches; but they’re not. In 2020, 350 new coal-fired power plants were under construction in these countries and many others. China is the leading producer of GHG and has no intention of reducing emissions despite what they say publicly.

What’s more, the forecasts produced by climate models and referenced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are dubious at best. Ironically, this is because climate models have become more sophisticated, yet they depend on many variables of climate input, and one wrong input of data can throw off the entire forecast. And according to Dr. Stephen Koonin, former President Obama’s Undersecretary for Science, much of the data provided to these models are based on varying assumptions made by numerous climate scientists.

Routt County citizens should challenge our government leaders and 2022 candidates about the costs and benefits of the CAP implementation, especially when government generously subsidizes these industries by raising taxes. Implementation will have much higher economic and environmental costs on our communities and natural habitats while reaping no real benefit affecting climate change.

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