Hickenlooper’s goal a good one
Gov. John Hickenlooper set a good goal for Colorado Tuesday: reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels, and also cut power plant carbon emissions by 35 percent by 2030, compared to emissions levels in 2012.
Hickenlooper’s executive order sends a strong message that Colorado believes in the science that tells us the increase in greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere is contributing to rising temperatures.
Such a message didn’t seem as crucial in August, when we were critical of a leaked draft of a very similar executive order. Back then, we urged Hickenlooper to postpone his order and work with lawmakers to set the same goals legislatively.
Much has changed since then. President Donald Trump sent the opposite message to the world in June when he withdrew from very similar goals set by world leaders in the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s message that America isn’t concerned about the buildup of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere is harmful to efforts to preserve our environment for future generations.
Hickenlooper is sending the better message: We will work hand in hand with Coloradans as we continue this tough transition away from fossil fuels and toward more sustainable — albeit still less reliable and more expensive — energy sources. “Now is the time to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy while maintaining Colorado’s position as one of the lowest energy cost states in the nation,” Hickenlooper said in his executive order.
That’s a bold expectation. We’d be shocked if Colorado were able to shutter a meaningful number of the coal plants that The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley reported provide more than 55 percent of the state’s energy without causing energy costs to increase. But there’s always a cost to doing the right thing and the challenge will be keeping those increases manageable for Coloradans and the industry.
Hickenlooper’s executive order is just a suggestion as opposed to the law put in place in 2004 mandating electricity providers move a portion of their portfolio to renewable energy. In 2010 lawmakers increased the mandate for investor-owned utilities to 30 percent by 2020, and in 2013 co-operative utilities were required to hit 20 percent.
Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, criticized the governor’s executive order saying it takes the state “backwards” because it circumvents lawmakers. We can only assume Scott was referring to Republicans in power in the state Senate who would likely block anything that tried to increase the speed at which the state moves away from fossil fuels. Republicans in the Senate claimed the sky would fall in 2013 when Democrats pushed through the new standards for co-op utilities.
But if we are wrong and Scott is genuinely interested in being part of the solution, then Hickenlooper’s executive order sets a good blueprint for legislators to consider next session.
This summer Scott, and other energy-minded state lawmakers should ask Colorado’s utilities what it would take to comply with the governor’s goals.
Xcel Energy says it’s on pace to hit the 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020 and is at about 20 percent right now. In 2016 Excel reported it had reduced emissions by 34 percent since 2005, and projected hitting a 45 percent reduction by 2021 — but even as it hits that goal it will rely on 41 percent coal-fired power plants.
There’s a big difference between Xcel’s projection and Hickenlooper’s ask however, as Hickenlooper sets the beginning point in 2012 — a date where Xcel and other companies had already begun significantly reducing carbon emissions.
While Trump is in office the onus of reducing emissions in a meaningful way has fallen on states, and we’re glad Hickenlooper and other cities and states are picking up the mantle so that the nation might not slide too far during the next four years dominated by climate-change deniers in Washington.
We hope Republicans in Colorado follow his lead and not the president’s harmful repudiation of science, fact and international agreement.