Colorado editorials: Study shows high cost of ‘clean power’ in Colorado
September 21, 2017
Study shows high cost of 'clean power' in Colorado
Colorado efforts to fix global warming financially burden the working class and poor.
This is no longer speculation. Numbers tell the story in a new report released Saturday by the Colorado-based Independence Institute.
Colorado leads the country in renewable energy standards that force electric utilities to replace coal-fired plants with solar and wind. Voters statewide enacted higher renewable standards in 2004. Since then, the Legislature has three times raised the minimal percentage of "renewable" kilowatts produced by cooperatives and investor-owned utilities.
During that time, the report shows, electric rates throughout Colorado have increased an average of 62.1 percent. Median household incomes, which pay these costs, have increased by only 4 percent. The rate hikes are nearly double the cumulative rate of inflation.
A 62.1 percent increase in the electric bill doesn't exact serious pain on upscale households in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Colorado Springs or other communities that heavily influenced Colorado energy policies.
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The report found the highest economic quintile of households spend about 5 percent of after-tax income on home energy. The lowest economic quintile of households on average spend 22 percent of after-tax incomes on energy. Some low-end households pay up to 30 percent of household income to public utilities.
Colorado's soaring electric rates cause low-income families to live with bare cupboards and disconnected utilities. In the worst cases, higher utility bills lead to evictions and foreclosures.
Don't expect this trend to end anytime soon. Gov. John Hickenlooper pledges to carry out more clean-energy mandates that were outlined in the Clean Power Plan enacted by an executive order of former President Barack Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court put Obama's plan on hold, finding it would do "irreparable" economic harm to small businesses and households. President Donald Trump rescinded the plan with a new executive order, but Colorado will forge ahead without regard for the effect on electric rates.
Obama's Clean Power Plan used Colorado's standards as a model but would impose greater mandates on top of those Colorado achieved.
Advocates of ever-increasing clean power mandates insist they won't harm low-income households, regardless of contrary evidence.
"The EPA rule can lower household electricity bills in every state covered by the rule," explains a paper by the left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen.
The claim led the environmental magazine "Grist" to publish similar claims under the headline "No, Obama's Clean Power Plan won't raise your electric bills, no matter what conservatives say."
Public Citizen bases the claim on a belief all new mandates and the ensuing price increases will "spur" households and businesses to insulate more and embrace other energy efficiencies that will lower consumption. The group says efficiencies will more than counter prices that "will rise modestly."
"Modestly" is a relative term, but we don't consider the 62.1 percent rate hikes throughout Colorado anything in the ballpark of modest. Nor have we seen a revolutionary spurring of efficiencies and associated reductions in consumption. At least one monopolized utility countered the lower consumption of a municipality by imposing a higher "maintenance fee."
Colorado serves as a case study in renewable energy standards. The mandates might slow the state's theorized contribution to global warming. Meanwhile, we know for certain these mandates financially harm those who are least able to afford them. The numbers don't lie and must be acknowledged when we enact new standards.
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Sept. 20
Public libraries: Transforming with the times, libraries embracing expanded community role
Cool temperatures and changing colors turn our attention to what we know is coming. As fall gives way to winter, like it or not, soon we will be spending more time indoors. A great place to do so is the local library.
In La Plata County, that means Durango, Pine River and Ignacio public libraries, and Reed and Delaney libraries at Fort Lewis College, all of which provide residents free access to materials.
"Materials" these days does not just mean hard copy books (though they remain the majority of items checked out), but also services like e-books, e-audio, digital downloads, databases, public computers, meeting space, kid and adult programs and now, a new motor vehicle registration kiosk at the Pine River Library. So, too, are new park and recreation facilities to be completed in November.
Shelley Walchak, Pine River Library director, is excited about the developments. "This is not your grandparent's library," she wrote to the Herald (Sept. 6). "Libraries now serve as community centers, not just warehouses of books and places to study. Books are one of many ways our library assists in 'connecting people with possibilities,' our vision statement."
Though it is not currently popular in Bayfield, we hope the DMV closure goes smoothly and the kiosk meets most residents' needs. Combining services in one location is efficient and has the potential to be a win-win for residents seeking "one-stop shopping" opportunities, and for the library seeking to educate the public about its offerings and attract new users.
One way the Durango Public Library is going about that is through its library card discount program, a partnership with 60 local businesses offering discounts to library cardholders through the month of September (coinciding with National Library Card Month) to support local merchants.
Connecting people to possibilities and strengthening communities — that's our local public library system at work. Take advantage of it and encourage others to as well.
The Durango Herald, Sept. 18
Promising news on dearth of voter fraud
During the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump infamously sought to cast doubt on the integrity of voting systems by arguing that if he lost his supporters should interpret the defeat as proof of a rigged election. He even said he wouldn't concede unless he won.
After his surprising victory, Trump argued that as many as 5 million votes cast illegally during the 2016 presidential election cost him the popular vote. Numerous fact checkers have judged the statement to be false, and the country's secretaries of state have certified their elections and found no evidence of widespread wrongdoing, but questions about voter fraud persist. No doubt, such questions will live on for some time, and they will do so even if Trump's commission on voter fraud doesn't find the massive wrongdoing the president is looking for.
Against this worrisome backdrop, it's good news to read that a recent study by Colorado's secretary of state, Wayne Williams, in conjunction with counterparts in four other states, found scant evidence of fraud.
Ten of the nearly 3 million Colorado voters who turned in ballots in the 2016 presidential race may have voted twice, and 38 voters may have voted here and in another state. In all, the study found 112 instances of possible fraudulent voting in five states. The review, arranged before Trump's campaign trail claims of fraud, included two other mail-ballot states, Oregon and Washington, and two traditional, in-person states, Delaware and Maryland.
The 112 instances of suspected illegal voting were found in an examination of 11.5 million voter records. It's possible that local investigators now in possession of the secretaries' findings could result in some of the total suspected fraud cases being ruled accidental or administrative errors, further lowering the total. But even if all 112 represent legitimate fraud, the finding hardly suggests Trump's worries about massive illegal voting on the part of the Democratic Party can be considered remotely reliable.
"A very small percentage of the 2.9 million votes cast in Colorado in the 2016 election look to be improper," Williams, a Republican, said in a written statement. He added, quite rightly, that "even that small number deserves our vigilant pursuit."
We take heart in such vigilance. Voter fraud does occur, and it always has. No amount of it should be accepted. Last year, a CBS4 investigation found multiple cases in which others used ballots for dead people to participate in recent elections. Williams is working with multi-state systems and federal agencies to try to more quickly purge records of deceased voters from the roles.
More recently, former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve Curtis has been charged with using his ex-wife's ballot to vote twice here, after a report from Fox 31 discovered the alleged double-voting. Now a talk show host on KLZ-AM in Aurora, Curtis focused a show on voter fraud early last October, calling the wrongdoing a unique feature of the Democratic Party.
A democracy depends on the citizens' trust that votes are being cast legally and tallied accurately. We're glad state officials here and elsewhere are seeking to monitor the system as well as continue to upgrade it against opportunities for abuse.
But the facts on the ground suggest that contemporary voter fraud is minimal, and when it occurs, it does so in bipartisan fashion. An informed electorate should take comfort in the fact that adults across the political spectrum are minding the store.
The Denver Post, Sept. 18