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Mountain News: Protect our Winters crowd advised to use voices, votes

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DENVER, Colo.—Protect Our Winters, the climate advocacy group formed in 2007 by snowboarding pioneer Jeremy Jones, had a party in downtown Denver last week in conjunction with the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show.

There were tables of merchandise including a T-shirt with the message “Eat Fish Vote.” Also a billed hat with the message “Eat Ride Vote.” But a half-hour before Colorado’s new governor, Jared Polis, was scheduled to speak, just a handful of people had gathered.

Then the room began filling. One individual fumed. He had no use for Polis, he said, because Polis, a Democrat, had opposed a proposal called Proposition 112 that would have sharply limited oil and gas in Colorado. Drilling companies charged it would have put the entire state off limits. That was precisely the intent of some supporters who want to see extraction of all hydrocarbons minimized. State voters, though, rejected the proposal in November.

But environmental advocates were more pleased by Polis’s pledge to drive push Colorado toward 100 per cent renewables by 2040. He’s also advancing on transportation. His first executive order as governor pushed several levers intended to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

“Ultimately, elections matter,” said Polis when he spoke to the crowd, which by then had swelled to 2,000. The announcement by Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, to more rapidly embrace renewable energy was, he suggested, a result of his election.

Converting to cleaner energy, he said, has multiple benefits: reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but also improved air quality. “It’s not just about winters. It’s about smog and air quality. We care about both.”

Wrapping up his 15-minute talk, he urged his listeners, who were mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s, to use their voices and their votes.

“We need your vote at the table, your voice on local issues, your voices nationally,” he said. “If you want to see the renewables’ energy future, we need your voice and your activism.”

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