Supporters of Proposition 112, a ballot initiative that would put 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado off-limits for new oil and gas production, point to two flawed arguments supporting their misguided position.
First, they say the initiative will do nothing to hamper existing oil and gas wells – it would only be an effective ban on new energy development. Second, supporters say energy production is incompatible with Colorado’s thriving outdoor recreation industry. Let’s unpack these mistaken arguments one at a time.
Oil and gas wells are most productive in their early years. Production, royalties and tax revenues for host communities decline – sometimes steeply – after wells have been producing for a while. Production for a hypothetical gas well described by geology.com drops 94 percent over the well’s first six years of life. Oil wells experience similar declines. As production falls, tax and economic benefits for communities dwindle, if not replaced by new wells.
Proposition 112 supporters claim energy employment won’t decline sharply because employees still will be needed to tend existing wells. But very little labor is required once a well is producing. A single oil and gas company “lease operator” typically oversees multiple wells on multiple pads. Most of the jobs created by the oil and gas industry are in the “drilling and completions” phase, jobs that will disappear if Proposition 112 passes.
Some advocates of Proposition 112 say we must end or sharply curtail fossil fuel production in Colorado because of an inherent conflict with outdoor recreation, a key economic driver. While clean air, deep snow and unspoiled mountain landscapes are important, proponents overlook a few inconvenient truths.
Without oil and gas, there would be no outdoor recreation industry in Colorado, or anywhere. The world-class ski and snowboard resorts of Summit County? There’s no way to get there other than in vehicles fueled by gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. What about that Prius whizzing up I-70? Its battery is charged by electricity generated at least in part by natural gas.
If you prefer outdoor recreation of the two-wheeled variety, remember that modern road bikes and mountain bikes are much lighter thanks to components made from carbon fiber and plastic resins, which are made from oil and natural gas. If you want to ban oil and gas, have fun riding your 43-pound Schwinn Varsity over 10,000 feet of vert on Colorado’s famed Triple Bypass, rather than an 18-pound carbon fiber model.
Natural gas also is an essential component of virtually all the synthetic fabrics that keep Coloradans warm in the winter, cooler in the summer and drier all year round. Without natural gas, our outdoor recreation attire will be made of cotton, linen, wool and silk – maybe not the best choices for that snowshoe hike to Emerald Lake.
At Linhart PR, we’re proud to serve clients in the energy industry. Colorado benefits enormously from the jobs and economic activity generated by new oil and gas development in our state, and our outdoor recreation activity relies on fossil-fuel transportation and materials for its existence. For these and other reasons, I’m voting no on Proposition 112.