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My fellow Hummericans

To the Editors,

Having attended both presentations last week by Roger Cohen, retired Exxon scientist, and with the most recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concerning the effects of human-introduced greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, I feel compelled to offer my perspective on our energy situation.

With Exxon enjoying record profits for the second year in a row, it would certainly not behoove a scientist from Exxon to bear bad tidings of global warming to the American public. Likewise, the oilmen in the White House refuse to take any action on greenhouse gas emissions due to the economic impact that would have on companies like Exxon. Mr. Cohen, during his second lecture, pointed out that the stability of a society correlates to the level of energy consumption that its members enjoy.

Presumably, energy consumption produces prosperity and happy people buy things and live in peace. Gee, if only every country could consume as much energy as ours, what a peaceful world this would be!

Unfortunately, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, our country consumes over 20 percent of the world’s energy resources. Of course, China and India, which together comprise close to one-fourth of world population, are rapidly expanding their industrial infrastructures so as to bring peace and prosperity to their people. That leaves 70 percent of the world’s people to manage with less than 50 percent of the energy resources. That does not bode well for the economic stability for over half of the world’s people. And China, with five times the U.S. population, is just getting started (if per capita ownership of cars in China matched the level here, China could single-handedly consume the daily world production of oil).

And that becomes a threat to our economic security. In fact, the White House specifically mentioned China and India when refusing to respond to the IPCC report by decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions. How can we compete if the playing field isn’t level? (Like it was ever level.)

Geopolitically, China and India are situated much closer to the oil and gas reserves of the Middle East and Russia, and both are developing cooperative ventures in these areas, locking up future production as quickly as they can and investing in transportation infrastructure. They’re making friends in the Middle East. What are we doing? How much oil is Iraq exporting these days. (Of course, a large part of the problem in Iraq has to do with where the oil is located. The Kurds in northern Iraq sit on most of that country’s oil and redistributing that wealth is a major stumbling block in establishing any kind of unity there.)

Add to that (or subtract) the 15 percent of our imported oil that has been coming from Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez was just granted dictatorial power to “re-structure” that society. He has already shown his willingness to nationalize vital industries such as telecommunications. Can the oil industry be far behind? As noted in the Feb. 5 Durango Herald, Mr. Chavez has been proactive in encouraging energy conservation in Venezuela and has derided our leaders’ unwillingness to reduce our greenhouse emissions.

How long will it be before we have to take out another dictator sitting on our economic prosperity? No wonder King George figures we’ll need to expand our armed forces by 92,000 troops within 10 years.

Unfortunately, our leaders and industrial base tend to look ahead only as far as the next fiscal quarter. How is this already affecting our economy? One need only look at the balance sheets of Ford and GM for last year. Unlike Exxon, whose profits arise largely from Americans’ love of gas-guzzlers, those companies lost billions of dollars as the cost of gasoline rose to a mere $3 per gallon. And that doesn’t include over 10,000 lost jobs (at Ford alone) while these companies “re-structure” their operations to reflect the “new” economic reality.

Meanwhile, due largely to political apathy, most hybrid vehicles, wind turbines and solar technologies are being supplied by foreign industries (Denmark, Japan), where their foresight has encouraged development of these technologies.

My fellow Hummericans, the socio-economic impacts of our failure to respond to international calls to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions will fall on your grandchildren, as will the massive national debt incurred due to military actions required to maintain our addiction to oil.

I believe it was Niels Bohr who said, when asked why so many of his fellow physicists were reluctant to accept his atomic theory, “Physics changes one funeral at a time.” I’m afraid that might be how our country’s energy policy evolves, though most of the world agrees we may not have that long.

– Sincerely, John Carter, Durango

What about the people’s will?

To the Editors:

I am outraged by the sequestration (in the moldy recesses of the general fund) of money appropriated by the citizens for open space. I’m reminded of the money voted by the citizens of Colorado for open space a few years back. That money was diverted by the Legislature to prisons before being re-voted by the citizens to open space. Really, those who treat the will of the people so lightly deserve to be kept after City Council meetings to write the preamble to the Constitution on the blackboard 40 times.

How much of our money is this? In the tens of millions, right? This is important, because when there is a large, visible pile of money waiting to be spent, then open-space administrators can be proactive. Having money in your hand tends to increase your credibility, especially when it’s in the millions. Additionally, I have learned that our city’s Comprehensive Plan calls for the creation of a 100%-dedicated-to-the-open-space-program Open Space Manager position to go along with the open-space tax increase we approved in 2005. When the city got ready to add a position to its staff after the open-space-tax vote, the Open Space Advisory Board unanimously recommended to our current city councilors that the position become the Comprehensive Plan-recommended Open Space Manager position. The board even offered up its recommendation in a guest editorial in the Herald signed by every member of the board. But our current City Council refused to follow the board’s recommendation. As a result, our city’s open-space program does not have a dedicated Open Space Manager as recommended in the Comprehensive Plan. It’s all well and good to have an Open Space Board. But it’s basic common sense to have someone on city staff whose daily concern is to look for opportunity. Driving up the Animas Valley, I see opportunity – lots for sale, properties that should be preserved through easement or purchase. The opportunity to develop a strategy and plan to preserve and conserve is there – if only our city councilors would fund and staff the open-space program for which we voted to tax ourselves millions of dollars only two years ago.

– Frank Leuthold, friend of open space, Durango

The “tile” exercise

To the Editors:

Before passing judgment on Scott Graham or his critics, read the online minutes of the recent comp plan committee meetings. Decide for yourself whether the process placed the interests of a few property owners ahead of community goals.

The City has put a tremendous effort into updating the plan with ample opportunities for public input. The “tile” exercise allowed us to plan and guide inevitable growth. I recall that most tiles were placed in the opposite direction of Twin Buttes. In my opinion, we clearly told planners to direct growth east and preserve the rural feel of the northern and western entrances to our town.

Respectful discussion and debate before the upcoming elections would be helpful in defining the shape of our community and its future. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of River Trails Ranch.

– Chris Wilbur, Durango

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows