Winning Our Resource Future
This guest column was written by Firestone Mayor Chad Auer
America is on the brink of an energy revolution. Given the massive amounts of oil and gas reserves buried far below the surface we could, for the first time in generations, see America's dependence on foreign resources diminish significantly. In addition to providing a much needed market correction to the Middle East's stranglehold on fossil fuel, these new reserves have the potential to strengthen America's global position for decades.
Conservative estimates tell us that there are roughly 2.5 trillion barrels of oil in the world's oil shale deposits and 1.5 trillion of those barrels are in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Experts have determined that the United States has 21.8 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves and trillions more cubic meters of natural gas.
If we sensibly develop the massive amounts of oil and gas reserves buried miles beneath Northern Colorado, the Centennial State stands to lead the way in America's pursuit of energy independence.
The key word, as usual, is IF.
Unfortunately, Colorado citizens are being subjected to a false dichotomy that does little more than further our cultural addiction to divisiveness. A select few want us to believe that either you accept every hysterical assertion of the greens and join the 'moratorium' fad or, you are a mind numbed supporter of the oil industry.
As we all know, extremists have launched an all out political and theatrical assault on the natural resource industry. Their campaign is complete with scare tactics, inflammatory rhetoric and politically correct propaganda. Their game plan is simple - arouse public unrest with a spectrum of allegations (inevitable earthquakes, contamination of drinking water, uncontrolled pollution etc...) and intimidate local officials into policies that undermine America's future. And that is not a joke.
Rather than drink the latest cool-aide served up by the far left and far right alike, let's do what Colorado does best - take an objective, data driven approach to the issues at hand and implement public policies that provide a sensible vision for our future.
First, we need to ensure that the development of our oil and gas reserves is done in a safe and efficient fashion. As Governor Hickenlooper has mentioned time and time again, Colorado has the nation's toughest and most comprehensive regulations in the nation. Since 2008 when our regulations underwent a much needed upgrade, not a single incident of ground water contamination has occurred. In reality, the oil and gas industry is one of the most heavily regulated sectors of our economy.
Over the course of my service as Mayor and as the Chairman of the Weld County Planning Commission, local jurisdictions have effectively established appropriate safe guards and development conditions. The assertion that more involvement/regulation from the State and/or Federal government is another solution looking for a problem.
Additionally, Colorado would be well served to reconsider the formula for distribution of severance tax revenues. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association tells us that the oil and gas industry pays over 90 percent of these severance tax dollars, of which a portion is directly distributed to local Colorado communities. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, northern Colorado cities and towns receive anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000 annually. I suggest that, in the spirit of fairness, when a community enacts a moratorium, there should also be a moratorium on their receipt of the corresponding tax revenues.
There is no doubt that Colorado has the potential to lead America toward energy independence. Level headed Coloradans know that the path forward requires us to navigate the risks, costs and opportunities of energy development with common sense and vision - not hyperbole, self righteous moratoriums and Hollywood rhetoric. America is counting on us to win our resource future and I am confident that once we leave the partisan talking points behind, we will deliver.