Energy independence fuels debate at confab

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce sponsored an all day Energy Expo at the Convention Center last Friday. Exhibitors helped stuff swag bags for the free event with everything from water bottles to breath mints. An all-of-the-above philosophy was evidenced by representation from wind farms, solar cell manufacturers and other sustainable technologies to more traditional fossil fuel giants, including oil and gas producers — even the Colorado Mining Association (think clean coal). NOKERO Solar has developed a solar light bulb for markets in the third world without reliable electricity. They claim you can charge it during the day and it will provide light all night. For $8 it sounded like something that belonged in my camping gear. Mine, as advertised, provides bright light all night long on a single afternoon’s charge. There was even a Washington, D.C., based non-profit talking up a revival of oil shale.

In the morning, petitioners were collecting signatures from attendees on behalf of two ballot measures that would deny severance tax revenues to local governments that choose to ban fracking and require a financial statement on any initiative requiring such a ban that quantifies the amount of the foregone revenues. By afternoon, anti-frackers had arrived with signs, their appeals for setback limitations, and the so-called environmental bill of rights. Apparently the 2014 rate for good signatures is $2.50 per petition. Not bad summer work for a college student. The roster of Expo presenters, however, was heavily weighted in favor of support for expanded fracking throughout the state, highlighted by Ken Salazar, the keynote speaker.

The former U. S. Senator, Colorado Attorney General, Director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Secretary of the Interior is a pedantic and careful orator. No arm waving or cheer leading here. Rather, a carefully crafted argument that could also serve as a defense of the Obama administration’s energy policies. Salazar explained that he viewed his responsibilities at Interior to include the promotion of policies that would assure our economic, environmental and national security interests. He pointed out that every president since Richard Nixon has promised to move the nation toward energy independence and each has failed. Between 1970 and 2008 our reliance on imported oil rose from 30 percent to 61 percent of daily consumption, but has fallen to less than 40 percent during the past five years and is expected to shrink further to just 28 percent by 2016. Renewable energy production has doubled and average vehicle efficiency is scheduled to reach 55 miles per gallon by 2018. By 2020, the United States will surpass both Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the largest oil and gas producer on the planet.

Salazar explained that we are “in this good place” because of our expansion of fracking technology which now underpins national energy security. Opponents will not only undermine this economic security but would betray our troops if we were to suddenly undertake an about face on energy policy. These were arguments aimed directly at Democratic voters. “No U-Turn!” is a slogan that will fit on a campaign button, perhaps along with “Wrongheaded.” The former Secretary advocated a policy of collaboration and cooperation between industry and regulators. He provided an example of cooperative action negotiated between drillers in East Texas and requirements of the endangered species act to protect the dunes lizard. This was accomplished with a CEO who had first accused him of operating a “jobs killing machine.” He argued that strict adherence to “best practices” can not only prevent a further blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, but will accelerate our ability to transition to the renewable energy economy that we will need to confront the challenges of climate change.

Game on, Mr. Polis.


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