A volunteer who makes a difference

DVW listens © Seth Roffman

By Chapter chair John Buchser

Climate change is certainly giving us a slap in the face this year. My relatives in northern New Jersey were directly in the path of Sandy, reminding me of my childhood memories of a very frightening, noisy night followed by the sight of toppled trees along our street in the early ’60s before my family moved to New Mexico.

Here in New Mexico, we are facing the double impact of climate change added to a multi-year dry stretch that is well within our normal variability of climate. How we adapt to climate change will determine the extent to which we can minimize the long-term effects of what I like to call “global weirding.”

The Rio Grande Chapter is losing a major volunteer leader who has been instrumental in helping us understand and plan for climate change. David Van Winkle retired to New Mexico from a management position in corporate America. He was taken, as many of us are, by the extraordinary landscape presenting many hiking opportunities. He quickly became an outings leader with the Northern New Mexico Group, complementing his leading international hikes for the national Club. David subsequently was elected chair of the Northern Group, and was an extremely valued and productive member of the Chapter Executive Committee. We owe the current design of our website, our communications plan and the national Club’s website to the vision and guidance of David.

Where David really excels is taking many variables and condensing them into a strategic path, in this case, how to move from a coal-based energy economy to a clean-energy economy.

He recently presented to several Club leaders a summary of his analysis. Using various reports available from public entities, private companies, and legal discovery, he compiled what is certainly the most comprehensive independent analysis of our energy situation in New Mexico.

I was aware that the cost of energy produced from coal, excluding all the resulting health issues, was roughly equivalent to the clean energy produced by wind. David confirmed this. I suspected that within the next few years, solar energy production costs would meet the costs of risk-prone nuclear. He has shown the two are now equivalent in cost, excluding the nonexistent disposal solution for spent nuclear fuel rods. Another discovery is that we can make huge strides away from coal, grow renewable energy with current technology from 10 percent to 50 percent, and realize energy-efficiency savings that overall will result in no increased costs to bill payers. Beyond 50 percent, development and implementation of cost-effective storage becomes essential. Sometimes the wind does not blow and the sun is obscured for a few days. We should not depend on what is certainly only a short-term plentiful supply of natural gas for providing power when clean sources are insufficient.

David has been active in the organization founded by Gail Ryba, the New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, as the Club’s representative. The goal of CCAE has been to improve energy efficiency and provide a path toward clean energy. David will continue to be active in that organization, and we wish him the best as he continues to lead the charge for taking the steps necessary to make visions of a cleaner, safer world for future generations a reality.