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These comments generally progress from the straightforward to the more complex. Comments looking for a response begin with !!!!!.
1. Thanks for a program so important I felt compelled to make the trip from Denver. This is exceptionally important work you and your colleagues are doing and I am grateful to everyone moving it along.
2. Boulder has phenomenal activist and intellectual capital that leaves me green with envy. The City of Denver has trouble with lower-order functioning issues, let alone envisioning what you’re trying to do. (I know this from lots of experience, though I’ve also dealt with Boulder and so know you don’t have it perfect, either!)
3. I agree with the initial premises you set out. The developed world has an ethical obligation to ramp down our GHGs to make space for the developed world to to ramp up its GHGs, gently and smartly, as it strives for some reasonable standard of living.
4. I know it’s another conversation, but I believe we in the developed world also have an ethical obligation to work down our carbon legacy and that a fair bit of our economy ought to be redirected from the trivial to carbon negative activities.
5. Yes to the imperative of your ’5% GHG reductions this year and every year thereafter.’ Excellent, even as I prefer to say ’1% this month and 1% next month and 1% every month thereafter’ to emphasize that we need to start NOW, and make steady progress NOW, with seemingly more manageable 1% silver BB bites.
6. My observation is that the 2°C target was a political, not science-based one, and that the evidence suggests 2°C is too high.
7. One reason I came was to move myself along the continuum you described that you have traversed, from skeptical to believer, as in YES, Boulder can do this, can achieve its multiple objectives, can dramatically reduce its GHGs. And you did move me along.
8. !!!!! I am frequently explaining that “Colorado’s 30% RPS” is nowhere near 30%, so your explanation that the 30% RPS for Xcel’s electric generation is significantly lower was very interesting. However, I need to hear it again. Can I read this somewhere?
9. !!!!! You mentioned some problems (I believe) properly accounting for efficiency gains. If this goes beyond the profoundly significant Jevons Paradox, I’d be interested in learning more. Can I read this somewhere?
10. For some time now I’ve been suspicious of the “low hanging fruit” strategy. Auden Schendler makes it all so clear as he synthesizes the issues here [http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/23/1230521/rotten-fruit-why-picking-low-hanging-fruit-hurts-efficiency-and-how-to-fix-the-problem/].
11. !!!!! Re: Power Purchase Agreements: Why don’t PPA providers want the same 15% profit on their sales as Xcel does – profit you identify essentially as free money to fund a more aggressive transition?
12. Re: Xcel’s 15% profit being free money to fund a more aggressive transition: Under municipalization, that 15% does become free money for Boulder, but that also means it is no longer available – not to the abstract “Xcel” but rather to real live human Xcel investors, including Boulder citizens who own Xcel stock. This is a “tragedy of the commons” situation where initially Boulder comes out ahead – because it is diverting that 15% from Xcel investors residing inside, yes, but mostly OUTSIDE Boulder – but eventually, as hopefully and necessarily other cities municipalize or the equivalent, Boulder investors in OTHER utilities will take the profit hit without the local benefit. At the same time, it’s “fair” for Boulder to do this as a first-adapter. But it’s not free money to the greater system, and ultimately not free money to Boulder.
13. !!!!! I know bio-mass is believed to be a really important part of the “solution” – particularly as a liquid fuel enabling us to continue our high-mobility lifestyles and to fill in the valleys of solar & wind. However, correct me if you – the thermo whiz! – understand differently. Bio-mass releases waste heat, and your best efforts to reclaim waste heat productively notwithstanding, we have a waste heat problem. Your Cal-Tech (my dad, too) colleague Tom Murphy sets out the following (you can scroll directly to the third graph) in this Do The Math post Galactic-Scale Energy [http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/]: even if there were no AGW – that is, no human caused increase of GHGs causing increasing trapping of solar insolation and a consequent warming of the planet – the waste heat of our economic activity in an economy growing at 2.3% per year would heat the surface of the planet to 100°C in four centuries. It’s been noted that frogs actually WILL jump out of water being heated. It seems that we humans didn’t get that bit of cerebral coding. Yes, whatever energy comes from wind & solar contributes only minimally to waste heat. But clearly we have a problem: the intersection of waste heat and steady economic growth. And if any place on Earth ought to be attuned the the challenges of exponential growth, it ought to be Boulder. Therefore…
14. !!!!! I must note that your page 5 chart shows a 50% increase in Boulder’s population by 2050, and at various places in your presentation and in my reading the literature of (and talking to) Boulder, there is an assumption and goal of continued population and economic growth. THIS IS OFF THE CHARTS UNSUSTAINABLE AND WILL ULTIMATELY UNDERMINE ALL OF YOUR EFFORTS TO DE-CARBONIZE BOULDER. Without intending to dilute your focus, this is a math problem of the highest order, and it at least deserves mention in every conversation relating to sustainability.
15. Great McKibben and Douglass quotes!
16. !!!!! Since, obviously, if Boulder succeeds but the rest of the world fails, Boulder fails, too, except with a cleaner conscience. Therefore, I hope, for instance, that neighboring cities and CU students in engineering, law, public administration, and related fields, are being encouraged to shadow the Boulder process to educate / encourage / inspire / facilitate the next-adapters; or the next generation of managers of the next-adapters. I will pass on encouragement to Denver, and from my read & perusal of the Study Session Packet, that would include the April 16 City Council meeting. Do you have or could you create a document of key meetings / events / times / places / live radio / webcasts that I could distribute?
17. And finally let me refer to another Tom Murphy Do The Math post: The Energy Trap [http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/the-energy-trap/] that perfectly explains your and my and colleagues’ failure with our small carbon tax citizens initiative and my and colleagues failure with our attempt to improve solar access in Denver’s zoning code re-write, for instance. Every energy wonk should read this post, where the take-away is we need to move as fast and ambitiously as possible NOW because our window of opportunity is closing fast.
18. THANKS, Sam, for all your and your colleagues’ efforts to do exactly that!
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