Colorado’s energy bust

Thanks to horizontal drilling, there are far fewer of these today.

COLORADO SPRINGS, June 22, 2014—There is an oil and gas boom in Texas. There is a boom in North Dakota. There is a boom in eastern Montana. There is a boom in Canada.

The Western Energy Alliance reports that the western oil and natural gas exploration and production industry supports 268,110 jobs across the U.S. and grew its overall economic impact by 65% in the past two years.

Colorado is rich in high-quality, low-sulfur coal and oil shale. So where is Colorado’s energy boom?

Answer: Buried by the state government—primarily Democrats but aided and abetted by Republicans as well.

In 2006 Democrat Bill Ritter defeated Republican Bob Beauprez for governor and Democrats took over the legislature. Subsequently, John Hickenlooper defeated Republican Dan Maes and Republican-turned American Constitution Party Tom Tancredo in 2010 to maintain control of the governorship.

At the same time, Democrats have maintained control of the legislature except for the 2010-2012 period when Republicans held the House by one seat. That didn’t help Colorado coal much, though: the oil and gas side of the energy industry and their Republican supporters joined with Democrats on House Bill 1365 to impose crushing regulations on coal plants which, as in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country, has resulted in plant shutdowns and closed mining operations.

Colorado oil and gas thought coal gasification plants would be replaced by natural gas plants. However, Democrats had something else in mind and now they’re going after oil and gas via fracking bans. In the November 2013 election, the cities of Boulder, Lafayette, and Ft. Collins enacted such bans.

Those bans are going to cost Coloradans jobs and money. Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) has been leading the effort to inform Coloradans about energy issues. CRED last week pointed to a study by the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) indicating that the ban on fracking in Boulder County would cost over $1 billion in compensation to mineral owners and those who receive royalties from energy development on their property. That compensation cost will be borne by taxpayers.

Anti- fracking zealots, however, were only encouraged by the success of the bans. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) is funding a number of anti-fracking initiatives that may appear on this November’s ballot. Word on the street is that Polis, reputedly one of the most corrupt members of Congress due to his (legal) insider trading, was able to see a fracking well go in near one of his properties in eastern Colorado. This sight spurred him to action.

Natural gas wellhead, all that you see after a fracking well is in place.
Natural gas wellhead, all that you see after a fracking well is in place.

There apparently are discussions going on in Democratic circles about getting Polis to withdraw his initiatives. Gov. Hickenlooper, who as yet does not oppose fracking, is said to be involved.

Colorado’s two current Democrat senators, on the other hand, are reliable votes against oil and gas development. Senators Mark Udall—up for reelection this fall—and Michael Bennett consistently oppose the Keystone pipeline—even though polls show two-thirds of Coloradans support it.

With the instability in Iraq and Syria, energy independence would seem to be a good thing.

Instead, they have championed alternative energy.

Ritter is now head of the Center for the New Energy Economy. He’s all for solar energy. So far, all that has provided Colorado are failures: Abound Solar is Colorado’s own version of Solyndra.

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Mark Udall is all in for wind. He even filibustered in the Senate for the renewal of tax credits for the wind industry.

What had Colorado gotten for these progressive energy policies? The energy sector in the state has been devastated. Mandates on power generation utilities for alternative sources are among the highest in the nation. Electricity prices have risen 23% in recent year.

With Beauprez and Tancredo both running for governor again, things are looking good for a very weak Hickenlooper to get reelected. If that happens, the energy boom will continue to pass Colorado by.

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  • Drewbueno

    A bit pessimistic from this author. Seems her real complaint is with the voters – Tancredo would govern well – not least on energy issues – and I think he’s more than capable of unveiling what a political snake Hickenlooper is. If you want a candidate who will look after the interests of average Coloradans, Tancredo is your guy. If you want a guy who’s main strength is happy hour with moneyed liberal lobbyists (many of which don’t even live in CO) then Hickenlooper should get your vote.