About this time last year, Charlie at Mesa Plumbing called with the dreaded news: The parts needed to overhaul my boiler were no longer carried by the gift shop at the National Museum of Pre-Columbian Plumbing and Heating."You really need to get one of those new energy-efficient babies," he said. "In the long-run, it will pay for itself with the money you save on your gas bill." "I'm at the age that when it comes to the long run, I'm a short-timer," I said. "But send me an estimate anyway."
to borrow money interest free from the feds to retrofit county buildings with energy efficient systems.)
It doesn't take a genius to see the value of the ClimateSmart program for individuals and businesses who want to cut (or at least stabilize) their energy bills, or who, like me, need to replace worn out HVAC systems and major appliances.
But it's reasonable to ask if there's anything in it for the community at large.
There is, and the most important things aren't even the ones the county is including in its talking points.
Boulder County's stated interest in the ClimateSmart program lies in reducing the local carbon footprint and in creating green jobs (or greening existing ones).
Judging from the first two lending rounds, it can certainly do both of those things, particularly if the program can be sustained.
If, say 1,000 to 1,500 of the county's draftier homes and workplaces a year could cut their energy use by, say 25 to 50 percent by implementing ClimateSmart measures, over a decade or two that could amount to some real overall savings. And it would sustain a few hundred green jobs.
But there are more compelling reasons for government's involvement in this sort of program than the ones the county has put forward.
As I've said before, fighting global warming is discretionary. Adapting to global warming is mandatory. And if there is one certainty in an uncertain world, it is that adapting to a new climate is going to require huge increases in the demand for electricity and natural gas.
A warming world will require big increases in electricity devoted to air conditioning, which already accounts for the largest proportion of residential electrical use. A dryer world will require a huge increase in electric demand for water desalination.
Add to that the amount of new energy that will be required to meet the needs of global population growth currently running at about 100 million a year, even with falling birth rates and to meet the needs of industrialization in the Third World.
From here on out, conserving energy and finding sustainable new sources of it is no longer going to be a green luxury; it's going to be a survival strategy. Or at least an economic survival strategy.
In the past, Boulder County's economic prosperity has been tied in no small part to its locally originated and locally funded efforts to protect its environment. Local comprehensive planning, growth management and open space preservation have made the county an attractive place for the knowledge-based industries of the new economy to set up shop.
In the future, it will be the same with energy. If Boulder County is a place where energy is managed wisely and produced in sustainable ways, it will prosper. If it isn't, it won't.
ClimateSmart is the sort of program that shows what can be done on a local level to enable action without pillaging the public purse. It's a bet on which we should double down by passing 1B and 1C.