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Governor Ritter Question and Answer Session

Posted on the 27 November 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Governor Ritter Question and Answer SessionA few days ago I wrote up the presentation given by former Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter. Ritter currently holds the position of Director and Senior Scholar at Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE). After his 30 minute speech, he took questions from the audience. What follows are notes from the question and answer portion of the presentation:

In response to a question about education and its role in what Ritter is doing, he mentioned the 4 (now) 5 “E”s. Ritter said that Energy, Equity, Environment, and Economic Development were now being joined with Education in order to achieve the goal of a clean energy future. However, his role with Colorado State University does not work K-12 education (no, I did not ask this question). He pointed out that his mission focuses on the political side of the issue. In order to achieve the goal of clean energy integration, Ritter is part of a group that recently founded the Advanced Energy Economy, a network “of regional business councils and partner organizations promoting a better business climate for the advanced energy sector and helping American companies and workers succeed as the world transition’s to Advanced Energy.”

Ritter did refer to the IPAT equation, although not by name. This equation stands for Impact equals Population multiplied by Affluence multiplied by Technology. A society’s impact on the environment is greater as the population, affluence, and/or technology increase. As all three grow, the impact increases at a greater rate. In a nod to bipartisan approaches to energy, Ritter touched on nuclear as a carbon-free option. As emissions increase from greater consumption, Ritter discussed the need to bring both sides of the aisle together, which includes nuclear energy, a major source of electricity in some countries, but only about 20% in the US.

One audience member asked about Hawaii’s clean energy standard. For more information, check out Ritter mentioned a study suggesting that clean coal is the only option to reach clean energy standards. He touched on scrubbing/stripping or carbon dioxide and sequestering as two technologies that could lead to “clean coal.”

Although not a scientist, he did an serviceable job explaining the science behind climate change. The only exception was when someone in the audience conflated methane leakage with ozone depletion. According to the EPA, methane (and other hydrocarbons) “may offer advantages as substitutes to ozone depleting substances because they have zero ozone depletion potential, low toxicity.” However, it points out that methane contributes to warming in the atmosphere. The discussion then went into the notion of “fugitive methane” such as that from landfills or the livestock. Ritter pointed out that methane degrades in the atmosphere over a much quicker time frame as compared to carbon dioxide.

Similarly to the IPAT Equation, Ritter referred to Shai Agassi’s Better Place, though not by name, when talking about transportation. Part of this mention came about in his discussion of storage. Ritter referenced the concept of car batteries being used to store excess solar energy production and feeding it back to the grid at a later time. He went on to mention GE’s investment in the largest US solar plant and the claim that some makers of solar energy equipment will achieve grid parity by 2015, meaning that they will produce energy at the same cost per kilowatt hour as coal.

When asked about what can be done on an individual level, Ritter brought up energy audits for the home. He also referenced a survey by Colorado College that found people in the Rocky Mountain states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) all favored solar and wind as the top two sources of electricity generation, despite the vast reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas in this region. In particular, he touched on the cost of electricity from coal (in the range of 6.5-7 cents per kilowatt hour) and said that Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, recently purchased 200 megawatts of electricity from a wind farm at less than half the cost of coal. Ritter did say that there were incentives, but that even without these, he claimed the wind power would still have been less expensive.

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