Opinion: No on 2A, 2B: Climate tax funds employee paychecks, not carbon reduction

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Learn more about 2A,2B: Climate tax and bonds (TABOR)
Get a second opinion: Yes on 2A, 2B: Governments (and Boulder) should take the lead on climate change

By Patrick Murphy

2A or not 2A, 2B, or not 2B — those are the questions. A pair of “No’s” are a good answer.

Unless you’re dead, you’ve noticed that the climate has changed, fast. I’m a botanist/plant ecologist, and I’ve lived in Boulder for 53 years. Why on earth would I oppose spending millions on climate change? I’d be happier if it was smart billions being spent. I’m opposed because it isn’t being spent wisely right now, and there’s no reason to believe that will change.

Remember the $30 million muni that didn’t work? The new Climate In-Action leader is a leftover from Plan A, the Muni. What’s missing from the Plan B Climate Action Plan is a cost-benefit analysis, an honest external audit and good logic. 

For me, 2A triggers a response of “Oh no, not again.” Fire mitigation, while important, needs a separate budget. 2B triggers the thought, “Are you out of your mind?”  Eighteen-plus years and 80+ million dollars of bondage to bad leadership, bad logic and an employee-packed pay roster.  

The current Climate In-Action annual budget is about $6 million. More than 40% of that will go to employee salaries in 2023 — and that’s without this tax increase being figured in and with the leftover muni money, which would raise personnel spending to 50%. They are hiring more people, and that really bothers me. Exactly how much carbon is being reduced by hiring more people? 

A simple cost-benefit analysis will answer that in a way that all the mumbling in the world won’t change. I need an actual cost-benefit analysis, not a long list of all the good things they intend to do, or paper plates they have recycled. We know about the road to good intentions.

The city should audit the true cost per ton of carbon reduction. Whether you represent a Boulder business (who can’t vote) or are a resident (who can), don’t pretend that the money is being spent wisely. 

Boulder Climate in-Action has the logic wrong as well. Boulder has electrified its own buildings and helped rich people electrify their homes. Boulder has electric vehicles (EVs) and lots of chargers for them. This is not equity: This is acting rich.

Electricity is the current equivalent of burning 44% coal. Unless you are tied to renewables, you are burning the equivalent of 44% coal with heat pumps, EV’s and electric bikes. We need to use renewables more and electricity less. More later, but not now — unless it is directly tied to solar or wind.

Boulder in-Action has a long list of good intentions in 2A, collaboration hot air, and zillions of trivial goals that fail the cost-benefit analysis. (If one were ever to be done.) To fix what is broken, you first have to see how to replace its broken parts. We need to spend very little on employee paychecks and a lot on actual, quantifiable carbon reduction.

For years, I have been repeating that what we need are solar incentives, wind incentives, RECs (Renewable Energy Certificate = legal credit for 1 megawatt of renewable electricity), and energy use reduction. We need to reduce electric use first. Step 2 comes after the grid is updated and the renewables are 90%-plus coming into every home and business.

Boulder has a long history of rejecting RECs and providing a denigrating, obfuscating story to make RECs taste like poison. They aren’t: They stimulate the renewables industry, and we should be buying all the RECs we can afford, because that is quantifiable carbon reduction. 

The Boulder Climate in-Action narrative will try to convince you otherwise. Why? Because that simple solution would end some of their jobs. While it may be true that this is a complex problem, paralysis complexicus is what we are suffering— at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

By voting no, the message of dissatisfaction is clear. Fix it first, then show us the carbon reduction and the true cost.

“So then what?”, you ask. Without the taxes — one of which expires next year and the other in 2025 — there will be time to reevaluate. Don’t feel bullied into voting yes. Think critically.

I want carbon reduction, fast and honestly documented. No such thing exists in 2A or 2B. We do need money and effort to reduce carbon, but our bureaucracy is road slop that’s spinning our wheels. Fewer employee paychecks: More solar incentives, wind incentives, RECs, and energy use reduction are what we really need. 

Patrick Murphy is a botanist/plant ecologist who has lived in Boulder for 53 years.

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Boulder Beat or its owner, writers or editors.

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