Recently I had an opportunity to attend “Colorado’s Energy Future,” a breakfast sponsored by Vital for Colorado, a coalition of more than 35,000 business and civic leaders who support responsible energy production here. U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper talked about the industry and the role it plays in our state and the world, in a panel discussion deftly moderated by Stefan Tubbs, co-host of Colorado’s Morning News on 850 KOA in Denver.
Rarely have so many gathered in one room who are in agreement about so much. Perhaps most surprising to anyone unfamiliar with Colorado’s unique brand of purple politics: the freshman Republican senator and second-term Democrat governor, a former petroleum geologist, were in lockstep on their support for oil and gas drilling in Colorado, its beneficial impacts on our state and national economy, and the progress made here on responsible regulation and oversight.
The five best lines from the interesting, informative and often funny dialogue:
- “We don’t have as much science in our decision-making about energy as we should. It’s important that we not get caught up in the hyperbole.” — Hickenlooper
- “I grew up in a two-stoplight town in Eastern Colorado. Thanks to the natural gas boom, it’s now a three-stoplight town.” — Gardner
- “Ballot initiatives can be very destructive. The [proposed] 2014 ballot initiatives [which effectively would have banned fracking in Colorado] would have divided our state.” — Hickenlooper
- “Local bans on fracking [which are in place in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Longmont] intrude on private property rights. These are takings.” – Gardner
- “People say I’m biased in favor of the energy industry. I’m not biased in favor of the energy industry, I’m biased in favor of the facts.” — Hickenlooper
The governor made news with a prediction: he does not expect to see an initiative on the ballot to limit fracking in 2016. “I don’t think there will be something that will be funded to any significant extent, and therefore I don’t expect something to get on the ballot,” he told the Durango Herald.
I hope the governor is right – energy production is too important to Colorado’s economy, and to U.S. national security, to put it at risk, and Colorado leads the nation in responsible regulation and oversight. But in a presidential election year in a purple state, I’m taking the other side of this bet – we will see anti-fracking initiatives on the ballot 18 months from now. “Fracktivists” have given no indication they plan to back down. That’s why the energy industry should continue to invest in community education and engagement. I’ll report back when the 2016 ballot is finalized.