Over the past 15 years, carbon emissions in the United States have increased more than 20%. Total US emissions, including other greenhouse gases, have increased 16% over the same period. This increase is largely a result of fossil fuel combustion--from electric energy production and vehicle emissions (EPA, US Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report). Our nation must adopt a global climate change strategy and take leading action in securing the health of our environment. As these efforts get underway, a great deal can be done at the state and local level. Comprehensive state policies that drive conservation efforts and reduce the use of fossil fuels send a strong message to all Coloradoans that we acknowledge the changing energy environment, and that we will be well equipped for the future energy landscape.
If we continue with business-as-usual, Colorado's greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase 80% over 1990 emissions. In order to protect our air quality and the environment - and to reduce our contribution to global climate change - we must make serious investments in our energy, transportation, and waste systems and in our personal behavior. We must do more than set renewable energy standards that achieve modest gains. We must implement bold policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the level necessary to halt global warming.
I support State policies that reduce carbon emissions from mobile sources, such as strict vehicle emission standards. These policies should be coupled with policies that reduce vehicle travel, concentrate development, develop accessible transit, and create incentives for the development and availability of clean vehicle technologies.
Energy savings hold as much potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as do new and renewable energy sources. I support improving residential, commercial, and industrial energy practices and behaviors, and implementing low-cost energy efficiency measures at every opportunity. Energy conservation actually can provide a strong source of new energy. I also support demand-side management programs that mandate a reduction goal for the energy industry to be included in tandem with any renewable or new energy policy.
In addition, I believe addressing inefficiencies in the grid at the point of energy use to recapture lost heat and power will also allow for greater capacity in the system. These efforts will slow the need for new energy development, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Our current renewable energy standard takes the first step in developing alternative energies in Colorado, such as solar, hydro, and wind power. However, slight steps toward developing these and other alternative energy sources will not be enough to meet the greenhouse gas reductions needed in the electric sector by 2020. Continued development of new technologies will require stronger support for research facilities and new business development. Large wind businesses have already identified Colorado as a desirable home for their production. I support providing additional assistance to local communities in areas of the state where wind and solar energy are most promising.
I support the development of commercial, residential, and industrial building codes at the local level to reduce energy use and costs to better prepare communities to meet our changing energy future. Stronger incentives should be provided to businesses and individuals that create their own energy sources, those that are net energy producers, and those businesses that provide renewable energy services. With the continued rate of development in Colorado, and the costs of green building dropping to a level comparable to standard building methods and materials, I would support legislation requiring that building standards be adjusted to reflect new technologies and practices. Colorado should elevate the standard for design and development to one that not only envisions but also achieves net energy producing buildings and homes.
Solid waste combustion is the fifth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and contributes to poor air quality. Colorado should play a greater role in helping local governments with solid waste diversion and implementing zero waste strategies. I support incentives for local governments aimed at cost-effective zero waste efforts.
Colorado's environment is one of our greatest assets; therefore, it is our greatest responsibility to protect the natural environment so that it can sustain human life well into the future. A call to action is not enough to reduce our local and global greenhouse gas emissions. Policies that enable local communities to implement strong greenhouse gas strategies that add up to a real reduction in emissions will ensure a healthy environment into the future, greater energy security, and a stronger economy for Colorado.