Too hot for business?

By By Andy Thompson and By Andy Thompson

By Andy Thompson

Global warming is going to cost a lot unless Utah starts heeding others’ example.California’s Legislature announced plans last month to reduce 25 percent of the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The state hopes to achieve this ambitious goal by holding industry accountable for the global-warming gases it emits. Power plants, oil refineries and other manufacturers will have to find ways to pollute less. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told journalists that “the success of our system will be an example for other states and nations to follow as the fight against climate change continues.” I know the “Governator” is farther left on the political spectrum than even a typical Utah Democrat, but the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature should learn from its fellow party member. It has nothing to lose.Proponents of California’s legislation-dubbed Global Warming Solutions Act-contend that the state will not suffer economic setbacks because of the potential growth in the field of alternative energy. The research needed to improve alternative energy could be a boon for Utah-a state with a high rate of college grads-but there is even more economic incentive for the state to reduce climate-changing emissions.Consider, for instance, the winter sports industry.Utah relies on the business that cold, snowy days generate. About 5 percent of Utah’s visitors come to experience the “greatest snow on earth,” said Dave Williams, research coordinator for Utah’s Office of Tourism. While 5 percent may not seem significant, the money spent by those hitting the slopes is. Snow enthusiasts visiting the state spent $695,757,156 in 2003, more than twice as much as the average visitor, according to a survey by Ski Utah. Contributing nearly $700 million to Utah’s economy, skiers and snowboarders account for 13 percent of the state’s tourism dollars. “Visitors who come here to ski generally spend more money,” Williams said.These snow enthusiasts contribute to the 82,400 jobs in Utah that are directly related to the tourism industry. Many of those workers, especially those in the hotel/restaurant industry, see an increase in business during the ski season. “There definitely is a difference,” said Michael Silver, operating partner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Winebar at the Gateway Mall. “People come down from Park City and the canyons, to and from the airport or just stay at the downtown hotels. When you’re paying $60 for a lift ticket, $30 for a steak is reasonable.” Utah’s leaders should follow California’s proactive measure and listen to the warnings from the scientific community before the ski and snowboard industry suffers. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 90 percent of the Sierra Snowpack will be eliminated by 2100 under our current path of unregulated growth and pollution. That would mean far fewer ski days for the Wasatch Front and a lot less cash for a large number of Utahns.Instead of tax refunds for the rich, Utah’s leaders should enact legislation to curb the state’s contribution to global warming. The Legislature should consider the surplus the state received last session and make an investment to ensure the health of one of its primary assets. Think of it as maintenance for a house (or renovation of a capitol). Any legislation that decreases carbon dioxide emissions would be a laudable improvement to the state and its economy. Cleaner air for Utah’s residents would just be a nice auxiliary benefit.