By Scott Tipton
If developed responsibly, Colorado's abundant natural resources provide opportunities for continued job growth and economic opportunity, while contributing to lowering global pollution by replacing dirtier fuels with clean burning natural gas.
For years Colorado has led the way in innovation to create a regulatory system that protects the environment and allows for responsible energy production to thrive. In the state's previous administration, Gov. John Hickenlooper embraced opportunities to responsibly develop our state's natural resources and even create opportunities for international export, including supporting the proposed Jordan Cove natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline.
Western Colorado has a unique role to play in seizing this export opportunity. A growing demand around the world for natural gas has given Colorado a chance to further responsibly develop natural gas deposits in the Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado. This expansive area has been identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as North America's second largest natural gas reserve and has been recognized as a critical component for growing the economy in the region. The newest survey of the Piceance Basin indicates the natural gas deposits are 40 times greater than previously thought, capable of providing a heat source for millions of homes and businesses for years to come.
The proposed Jordan Cove export terminal has received strong local support, as well as bipartisan support from all levels of Colorado's elected officials because it would send Colorado's natural gas to our allies in Asia. There are few, if any, energy resources this abundant that the U.S. can export around the globe, and western Colorado can play a pivotal role.
The benefits to natural gas exports for western Colorado are tax revenues for local communities and good-paying, long-term jobs. The energy sector has boomed over the years as new technologies have improved how power is generated and delivered. According to BLS data, in 2017 Colorado had over 90,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry alone with an average annual salary around $91,000. We can bring more of these jobs to western Colorado as the demand for natural gas continues to grow.
It was deeply concerning when Gov. Jared Polis pulled the state of Colorado's support for the Jordan Cove project, and instead is taking a "neutral" position on natural gas exports, whatever that means. This is the latest in a series of decisions by the governor and state Capitol Democrats this year to undo Colorado's sensible energy framework and put our state's energy and economic future at risk. Once more the governor has heeded the call of Denver-Boulder environmental activists and turned his back on western Colorado.
The current American power grid relies on numerous types of energy sources, including wind, solar, hydro, natural gas, coal, nuclear, biofuels and others. When the governor and others disregard responsible all-of-the-above energy development, with moratoriums on oil and gas exploration, renewable energy standards unachievable by today's technology and grid, and neutral stances on projects like Jordan Cove, they not only jeopardize jobs, economic growth and affordable energy prices, but jeopardize U.S. energy security and forfeit the opportunity to reduce global carbon emissions by replacing dirtier fuels with cleaner natural gas.
Leaders from all levels should proactively seek out ways to bolster Colorado's role in energy dominance in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Developing Colorado's abundant resources will keep us on track to lower pollution and maintain a healthy economy.
There is no magic 'one-size-fits-all' approach to solving America's growing energy needs, but common sense should always prevail. Continuing to develop existing resources will undoubtedly provide Colorado with much needed revenue for our schools and roads, while harboring an environment in which newer and improved energy production can flourish.
Future generations depend on a robust all-of-the-above energy strategy today to ensure a sustainable future. Western Coloradans need to be reassured that their best interests are at the front of any discussions that take place regarding energy development, and so far, Gov. Polis has not given any such assurance.