America’s conversation about climate change typically offers two options. One is full governmental control and the American economy’s destruction. Legislation like Colorado Senate Bill 21-200, which is currently making its way through the General Assembly, is of that kind. The other option is denial.
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There must be a better way. It is time we promote policies that will protect the environment without destroying the economy.
Investment in nuclear energy is one good possibility. Nuclear energy’s carbon footprint is next to zero, and it requires 360 times less land to produce the same energy output as solar. The Energy Information Administration shows that nuclear is by far the most reliable energy source, operating at full capacity 92.5% of the time in 2020. In contrast, wind and solar operated at full capacity 35.4% and 24.9% of the time, respectively. Nuclear energy produces the same amount of America’s energy as all other renewable energy combined, and far more efficiently.
Nuclear technology continues to progress. Small modular reactors (SMRs) provide an alternative to larger nuclear plants, with their associated high costs, but nevertheless come with enormous environmental benefits. A Canadian study published last month indicated that SMRs could lower greenhouse gas emissions by 216 megatons between 2035 — 2050.
Hydroelectric is another option. In my home district, the small-scale Kannah Creek Water Treatment Plant, a 30-kilowatt hydropower system, is saving Grand Junction approximately $8,000 per year, and the energy it generates is sparkling clean.
Colorado Republicans are making headway in the development of these clean energy options. Recently, Republican House Minority Leader Hugh McKean and Sen. Rob Woodward sponsored and passed legislation that will loosen restrictions on hydroelectric facilities.
There are wise, cost-efficient ways to reduce our carbon footprint without upending the economy. But rather than focus on free-market solutions, Colorado Senate Democrats plan on enacting hard carbon caps, to Coloradans’ detriment. SB 21-200 would require that energy providers reduce their carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2030 under threat of fees and additional regulations. Energy costs will increase. The bill will put strains on Colorado industries and ultimately their customers — hard-working Coloradans themselves.
Colorado families and industries are still trying to climb out from under 2020’s wreckage. Unemployment remains high at 6.6% and tied for 35th in the country. According to Vice President Kamala Harris, one in three Colorado small businesses closed during the pandemic. We should be working to restore the economy, not pushing policies that will further weaken it.
SB 21-200 would especially harm the people it purports to help. Studies show that higher energy costs disproportionately affect low-income households. Ironically, SB 200, at the same time it would drive costs higher, also establishes a commission intended to reverse policies that negatively affect “low-income communities.”
Rather than stifle our economy, the legislature should focus on helping Coloradans. When it comes to climate change, we should choose a free-market approach that protects the environment without destroying jobs and harming families.
Colorado is a beautiful state, and we need to keep it that way. Climate change is a real issue, and it’s one that we can solve. We must turn to innovative, cost-efficient policies, not ones that will destroy American jobs and industries.
If we do not address climate change with free-market solutions, we will destroy the economy without protecting the environment. The Green New Deal and policies inspired by it are not the only options we have. Colorado should lead the way in enacting a better plan.
Ray Scott, a Grand Junction Republican, represents District 7 in the Colorado Senate.