Editorial: Fossil fuels are the ugly in the air
Last week’s decision by the Breckenridge Town Council to shelve part of a plan to put up solar panels in town was a good one. It was clear many town residents felt the panels at high-profile locations such as the Riverwalk and the golf course simply didn’t fit into the town’s aesthetic, and by killing those two locations while keeping another nine, the council showed it was listening to voters while still moving ahead with sustainability initiatives.
The incident contains some interesting lessons, though. For one, how long can any of us ignore the pressing reality of exploring alternative energy sources – be it for our homes, our cars or our businesses? Solar energy technology is far from perfect, and the panels well may be seen by some as “ugly” – but look around: Our world is riddled with power lines, TV and cable boxes, sign posts, traffic signals and other such things associated with the built landscape. Yet we hardly even notice these things anymore, so ubiquitous have they become. We overlook the appearance because we believe they are necessary for us to enjoy the benefits of modern technology.
We may not see the negative impacts of burning coal, natural gas or petroleum as readily as we might in viewing an array of solar panels, but make no mistake: That “ugly” is in the air we breathe, in the foreign policy that places us in unsavory places like Libya and Iraq, and in the escalating prices of these non-renewable products as they grow harder to find or are subject to market forces beyond our control.
Climate and energy policy may be stalled in partisan gridlock in Washington, but when individual municipalities like Breckenridge move forward with ways to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, it’s a small part of a larger movement that ultimately will become the way of the world. Solar, wind, geothermal and other such technologies may be far from perfect and have their challenges, but so too do such things such as coal-fired electricity plants, internal combustion engines and, as we are seeing right now, nuclear power plants. The benefits of creating energy without the hazards of air pollution or radioactivity – to name just a couple of drawbacks – on the other hand, are clear.
So don’t give up, Breckenridge. Eventually public opinion will shift to accommodate a new definition of “ugly,” and those solar panels may well fall outside of that.
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