Oct 172004
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Perhaps the most publicized ballot issue this election is Amendment 37, which would require Colorado utility companies to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2015.

The proposed amendment has companies such as Xcel Energy up in arms over the issue. Xcel has claimed that it is already increasing the amount of renewable energy sources it uses and that forcing the issue will only drive utility prices higher.

However, the amendment is more than reasonable, granting utility companies a plethora of options regarding how they reach the 10 percent requirement and how they can opt out.

Any utility could hold an election to exempt itself from the requirement. At least 25 percent of a utility company’s customers must vote, and the majority vote wins.

The bill requires that 4 of the 10 percent goal is produced by solar energy, one of the most expensive sources of renewable energy. But municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives can adopt similar requirements that utilize any renewable energy source to reach the 10 percent requirement by 2015. Municipal utilities are owned by the government to serve citizens in a specific area. Electric cooperatives are owned by their consumers and provide at-cost service.

Utilities that do not reach the requirement can also buy “credits” from other companies that produce more renewable energy electricity than they need to.

And the rising prices utilities companies claim they will have to charge their customers will hardly affect the residents. Amendment 37 places a price-increase cap of 50 cents.

While prices for natural gas are cheaper now, they are dramatically rising. Since 1990, the price of natural gas has increased 215 percent. Since 1970, its price has increased 2,165 percent. The price of coal is expected to remain static for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, the price of renewable energy is dropping as new technologies become available.

Logically, fossil fuels such as gas and coal are not everlasting. These will eventually run out. Now is the time to start seeking these new energy-producing technologies.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources is equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions from 600,000 automobiles annually.

Finally, voters must consider our current situation in the Middle East. The United States needs to reduce its interest in Persian Gulf oil, thus reducing our economic involvement in a turbulent political area.

Thus a yes vote on Amendment 37 will provide just what supporters call “Cleaner Air, Cheaper Energy.”

Ben Bleckley is a junior English major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.

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