A bumper sticker on the back of your car can help raise awareness for an important cause.
However, while it may be simple to affix a sticker to your vehicle, educating one’s self about all the facts — positive and negative — about global warming, gun control or any other hot button issue, is a step energy officials want people to think about.
The bumper sticker mentality is one Drew Kramer, the public affairs manager for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, believes too many people hold. He said that only having a cursory knowledge of a subject leads to oversimplification of something complex.
For Kramer, the people of Tri-State and others in their industry, the issue is renewable energy and the realistic expectations behind it.
Kramer was the guest speaker at a public forum and barbecue hosted by Northwest Colorado Energy Producers Association Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig.
Among the crowd were Craig residents and business owners as well as local and state politicians, including Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulfur Springs.
Kramer discussed the role Tri-State has played in providing power for areas like Moffat County and how that function is threatened by recent legislation like Senate Bill 252, which requires rural electric co-ops to obtain 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Aside from the fact that adhering to these mandates could cost a company like Tri-State millions in the long run, the argument at hand is whether or not the benefits of utilizing more renewable resources is even feasible within the timeframe, he said.
Kramer maintains that it isn’t as simple as using more solar power sources and burning less coal.
“There’s a lot behind it that a lot of our policy makers don’t understand,” he said. “It’s insulting to the intelligence of everyone who votes in Colorado to narrow down such a complicated issue.”
Kramer said the passage of certain legislation over the years, backed by environmental groups and lobbyists, has indeed had a positive impact on the environment without hindering energy production. SB 252, on the other hand, is an example of overregulation in Kramer’s view, thanks to the shortening list of valid renewable energy sources the government allows utility companies to claim in their effort to reach the 20 percent mark.
Hydroelectric power does not qualify under the new law, and while newer methods like capturing methane produced from coal mines are allowed, the effort involved in hiring people to perform such a task would barely be worth the dent in the new quota, he said.
“Energy from methane would only be a tiny, tiny, tiny percent,” Kramer said.
Kramer added that he believes Tri-State needs to focus its attention on more efficient ways to use coal rather than trying to hit an arbitrary number.
“There’s obviously a huge need for electricity, and for me, I think it’s irresponsible not to use the fossil fuels we have,” he said.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid was among those present at the meeting. As a former employee of Tri-State, he has regularly studied the impact of environmental regulations on Northwest Colorado.
One of those outcomes he believes to be likely is economic, with rising power costs.
“It could create inflation not just for you as a homeowner but the store you buy stuff from will raise their prices because they’re paying more for electricity, too,” he said.
Kinkaid said the amount of money it could cost Tri-State and other companies under SB 252 would hardly amount to much.
“The return on your investment just isn’t there,” he said.