EDITORIAL: Xcel global warming announcement electrifies the movement for change

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Xcel Energy deserves a standing ovation from Colorado for announcing they’ll work to stop making electricity by burning fossil fuels in the state by 2050.

It was a momentous announcement that Xcel will leap ahead in the battle to stem the effects of global warming.

The Minneapolis-based utility is Colorado’s largest provider of electricity, serving 3.6 million customers in eight states.

Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said this week that making the jump to create energy from sources other than those that release carbon dioxide, which is overheating the planet, is not just an ethical and environmental issue, it’s a financial one.

Xcel officials say their plan will save consumers about $213 million by 2054 because the cost of providing green-based electricity is going down.

The move to green-based energy production solutions makes as much financial sense for customers and shareholders as it does as a way to save humanity from catastrophic climate change.

While the 20-year-schedule may be too little, too late, it’s an motivating and encouraging start by an industry once seen as insurmountable foe to addressing the problems that contribute to climate change.

It’s a vindication of Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis, who was soundly criticized by Republicans for insisting that Colorado stop generating fossil-fuel-based electricity by 2040, mostly saying Colorado residents couldn’t afford it.

It could be that Polis and others like him get their way on an earlier date, because Fowke said the biggest thing holding Xcel back right now is technology.

The science is where it needs to be to get the Colorado grid off of carbon-based electricity, but the technology is lacking.

“If we put our minds to it,” Fowke said, in an Associated Press story this week, “we will find the best solution to get us there.”

The decision by a major utility conglomerate like Xcel to take on the global warming calamity is huge. It’s critical for Xcel to step up to the plate to be on the right side of history and science, but it’s equally as important because it pits a keystone industry giant against President Donald Trump as well as congressional and state legislative Republicans who continue to deny the looming catastrophe and the need to effectively address it.

Xcel’s bold and laudable decision takes global warming out of the lab and onto Wall Street and the everyday American marketplace in a huge way.

Xcel scuttles specious political arguments that the American economy couldn’t sustain what we need to do to save our lives and planet. It underscores what a growing number of Colorado residents and other Americans well understand: Our dependence and use on fossil fuels are killing us — environmentally and economically.

You don’t have to be a green-energy scientist to understand that sunlight, the wind, ocean and river currents and geothermal spigots are plentiful and free. The cost comes in harnessing these ubiquitous energies and distributing them.

And lowering that cost depends on improved technology, something that creates jobs and boosts the economy.

Xcel Energy has wisely shown Colorado and the world that humanity can be fiscally and ethically responsible, and that now is the time for other corporations and industries join against Trump and Republican naysayers failing to lead on the global warming conundrum. Clearly, we can lead from here.