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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Gabrielle Duebendorfer and Dani Demmons: Schweitzer Ski Resort leading way on environmentally friendly business

By Gabrielle Duebendorfer and Dani Demmons

By Gabrielle Duebendorfer and Dani Demmons

We love our Schweitzer Ski Resort. Last winter, skiing was one of the sane social activities we could safely engage in thanks to CEO Tom Chasse’s leadership. His insistence for skiers to practice safe social distancing kept his employees and the rest of us healthy. What I love even more about Schweitzer is their inspiring commitment to lead by example environmentally. As national policy changes make it increasingly easy to follow the Schweitzer lead, a clear path for climate solutions will emerge.

Schweitzer purchases renewable energy credits equivalent to powering the Basin Express Chair by wind all season. Energy usage is further reduced by efficient LED lighting and a gravity fed snow-making system. According to Family Programs Director Dani Demmons, a waste audit revealed where improvements would have the biggest impacts. As a result, plastic bottles are back hauled to Coke and implementation of a composting project with Bonner County is being investigated.

Climate change is already impacting Schweitzer. According to Chasse, less natural snow in low elevations necessitated exploring new water sources to ensure an early ski season. Reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency is good for the environment but also important for the bottom line. Still, local efforts like Schweitzer’s won’t be enough without national efforts to reduce carbon emissions while increasing GDP.

Our own Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has taken the lead in crafting the newly introduced Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act (ESIC), a bipartisan tax credit encouraging innovation in the clean energy sector. “If we are to meet long-term emissions targets without sacrificing affordable electricity, we need to invest in on-the-horizon technologies that can accomplish our environmental goals, create good-paying American jobs and meet our energy demand,” Crapo said recently.

Senator James Risch, R-Idaho, another ESICA supporter, says in his latest email, “… I have worked to expand production of reliable carbon-free energy … I also support further development of technologies to produce clean power such as wind, solar, and clean coal.” Though he recognizes the need “to reduce greenhouse gases in an economically responsible manner,” he, as well as the ESICA, stops short of supporting carbon pricing. However, most market economists say that such policies will likely not be enough to slow global warming without putting a price on carbon emissions.

Recognizing that problem, other legislators have introduced five different carbon-pricing bills to help speed the market shift to renewable energy. To eliminate a cost impact for average Americans, most of the bills give most of the collected fees back to the people through carbon dividends.

Citizens Climate Lobby models the expected impact of these policies including reductions in emissions, pollution and deaths due to pollution. The prediction is that 89% of the reductions are due to a carbon fee. (1) Potential negative economic impacts are repudiated in a 2020 paper by Tufts University’s Gilbert E. Metcalf, which shows that European carbon taxes have had essentially no, or in some cases slightly positive, impacts on economic growth. Other studies (2) highlight the many expected benefits of carbon pricing policies (other than cap and trade and carbon offsets) such as reduced business uncertainty and pollution, increased innovation, and the avoidance of mass migrations and military conflicts. Carbon pricing policies are also necessary to prevent damage to American businesses due to border tariffs soon to be implemented by the EU.

We must all help find effective climate solutions. You can help by supporting local efforts like Schweitzer’s and asking your representatives to support carbon pricing nationally. Together we will have many more years of good skiing.

(1) https://citizensclimatelobby.org/modeling-carbon-fees/ (2) https://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/files/Metcalf_Stock_Macro-Impact-of-EU-Carbon-Taxes_w27488_July-2020.pdf

(3) Mac Cantrell, CCL Idaho, April 2021

Gabrielle Duebendorfer is a naturopathic physician and the chapter lead of CCL Sandpoint. Dani Demmons is the Schweitzer family programs director.

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