Healthy & Safe Colorado — a coalition of dozens of anti-fossil fuel organizations, elected officials and business — has launched a ballot initiative to eliminate all new permitting of oil and gas drilling in the state by 2030.
If its promoters collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot and it passes, it would effectively end Colorado’s oil and gas industry.
Open For Business
State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, told Cowboy State Daily these efforts by Wyoming’s southern neighbor represent an opportunity for the Cowboy State.
“It sends a message to the oil and gas companies that here in Wyoming, we’re open for business,” Western Said. “As long as they play by the rules, you’re more than welcome to come and drill here.”
While this could mean companies migrating to a state that doesn’t seek to destroy them, Western said it still representative of national momentum that’s been building against fossil fuels without considering the benefits of fossil fuels.
“Despite the fact we don’t have the resources or the technology to do this so-called ‘energy transition,’ we’re going ahead anyway,” Western said.
Hurting The Poor
While wind and solar energy are often reported as cheaper than fossil fuels, those figures are based on levelized cost of energy, which doesn’t factor in the cost to the grid to provide reliability with intermittency of the sources.
Wind and solar require extensive overbuilding of the grid with transmission lines, wind farms and solar farms.
According to the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics in Germany, which is considered a global leader in the energy transition, will have spent around $567 billion on its plan to phase out fossil fuels by 2025. Last year, it got about 46% of its energy from wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric.
Since 2001, according to the Global Carbon Project, Germany has decreased its carbon dioxide emissions by about 28%, the same as the United States. According to the International Energy Agency, Germans pay some of the highest electricity rates in the world.
Western said that the energy transition will hit the lower income class the hardest, as they will have the hardest time paying the increase in energy costs.
“It's really unfortunate to see the state of Colorado hurt themselves in such significant ways,” Western said.
Cowboy State Daily reached out to Safe & Healthy Colorado to ask if it has considered the negative impacts of a ban on oil and gas, and didn't receive a response.
Chris Wright, CEO of Denver-based Liberty Energy, told Cowboy State Daily that if the initiative were to become law, it wouldn’t end demand for oil and gas. Instead, the energy America needs will be imported from countries with far less stringent environmental and labor protections than in the U.S.
That also means more carbon dioxide emissions as a result of transporting oil and gas longer distances.
“It’s hurting people. It’s hurting the planet. They’re just wrong,” Wright said about those pushing for the ban.
Wright said he’s a believer in developing other energy technologies, but there’s nothing now that can replace oil and gas as a primary energy source. Primary energy includes not just electricity, but also industry and transportation.
He said the petition is just completely unrealistic.
For example, a press release by 350 Colorado announcing the ballot initiative cites impacts of climate change to agriculture and the skiing industry as reasons the initiative is necessary. The statement doesn’t explain how farm equipment will run without diesel or what will replace modern fertilizers, which are derived from natural gas.
Wright said, despite the organizations’ claims that winter sports are impacted by climate change, SNOTEL reports since 1936 show no downward trend in Colorado’s snowpack. This year the state has above-average snowpack.
“They don’t understand energy. They don’t understand climate change, and they don’t understand those links energy has to human wellbeing,” Wright said.
Careful What You Wish For
Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River, said the level of ignorance about the value of oil and gas should be concerning.
“Without fossil fuel resources, our economy will go back to the economy we had before the Industrial Revolution,” Heiner said.
Besides energy, Heiner said fossil fuels are used to produce plastics, clothing and thousands of other products, which climate activists would never want to give up.
“Colorado is always trying to be progressive, but those people that are saying we need to get rid of oil and gas, I guarantee you they’re using oil and gas in their daily lives. It’s hypocritical for them to say we should get rid of it by 2030,” Heiner said.
Heiner pointed to an experiment in Sri Lanka that eliminated modern fertilizers on the belief that the country didn’t need them to have a thriving agriculture sector. The experiment was a complete disaster, and the country’s agricultural sector collapsed.
“These activists in Colorado need to be careful what they wish for,” Heiner said.
The organizations behind Healthy & Safe Colorado include 350.org, WildEarth Guardians and Stand.Earth. According to Guidestar, the groups had nearly $40 million in gross receipts in the most recent reported year.
“Colorado can continue to be a leader in a clean energy economy, and we can clean up our air and water, but we can’t do that while continuing to commit ourselves to the polluting industries of the last century,” said Heidi Leathwood, a spokesperson for the Safe and Healthy Colorado coalition, in a statement on the initiative.
In order to qualify for the ballot, the initiative will need to have about 125,000 signatures.
“My daughter cannot play outside at my house due to the close proximity of fracking — enough is enough — stop this fracking!” said Scott Simmons with Climate Reality Project NoCo in the press release.
Fracking refers to the hydraulic fracturing technology that is used to extract oil and gas from shale formations. The statement didn’t explain how such an operation would prevent Simmons’ or any children from playing outside.
Sober On Energy
Wright said that if there’s money behind the initiative, it’ll at least get on the ballot, but it’s unlikely to pass.
“I think their goal would be to get people like me in the energy industry to have to spend a lot of time and money to fight it,” Wright said. “Their goal isn’t really net zero. It’s to attack this evil demon of the oil and gas industry.”
Should this and other efforts pass and move the nation closer to what’s happening in Germany and California, Wright said the country will see rising gasoline prices, rising electricity prices, and more blackouts. At that point, the opposition to these anti-fossil fuel groups will grow.
“That’s when people will become more sober on energy. I think it’s started to happen already. Peak craziness hopefully was a year or two ago,” Wright said.