Gov. John Hickenlooper continues his public struggle this week with a decision he has to make. The governor must choose whether to impose needless hardship on rural Coloradans in order to appease radical environmental activists – the people who have heckled him at public events.
At issue is Senate Bill 252, which will double the percentage of energy rural electric cooperatives must obtain from solar, wind or other green energy sources. Costs of the mandate would show up in utility bills paid by households and businesses, reducing the money families and employers have to invest in trade, education, job creation and other constructive endeavors by about $2 billion before 2020. It’s a lose-lose for Colorado’s economy, which is the reason electric cooperatives haven’t done this on their own. If these investments made sense – if they improved quality of life for ratepayers – cooperatives and their members would race to create renewable power sources.
SB 252 is the work of State Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. Morse is the subject of a recall petition because he governs contrary to the interests of his community.
In the event a recall won’t stop him, his term limit will. Either way, the reign of Senator Morse won’t reach beyond the 2014 legislative session. After that, his political future dims. Because he wielded power with arrogant disregard for individuals and community values, Morse should forget about future elections or appointments to higher office.
Hickenlooper, by contrast, has a bright future as a pro-business Democrat who cares about people who elect him. He understands that Coloradans need jobs and that our economy cannot survive on solar panels, windmills and bicycles alone. We need affordable fossil fuels that generate electricity.
Hickenlooper’s re-election as governor isn’t a forgone conclusion, but Republicans will have a difficult time beating him in 2014. If twice elected the governor of a progressive state, no political office should be considered too high for him to at least consider.
Hickenlooper becomes more vulnerable the moment he aligns himself with the radical agenda of Morse, who legislated this year like a man with nothing to lose, and radical environmentalists.
If Hickenlooper signs Senate Bill 252, the moderate governor will appear extreme. He will appease activists at a cost of marginalizing himself in the eyes of hard-working Coloradans who are struggling to make ends meet.
Aside from blemishing his moderate persona, Hickenlooper’s signature on this bill would come at a small cost. Much of rural Colorado would resent him for it, but statewide elections aren’t won by voters on the eastern plains or western slopes. Gubernatorial and senate races are decided primarily by urban voters along the Front Range, most of whom don’t spend much time worrying about country folk.
But the political cost of a veto is equally minute. Environmental activists already resent Hickenlooper for declining to impede oil and gas exploration. Who cares? It’s not like they’ll vote for his Republican opponent.
So Hickenlooper shouldn’t base his decision on a political calculation. He should simply do right by his state.
The governor has explained his own position on global warming theory, saying: “I’m not someone who thinks the world is going to end, that climate change is completely gloom and doom.”
Given the governor’s intelligent view of environmental alarmism, he should avoid reacting to a potential dilemma scientists have never even proved. If we had conclusive answers about climate change, the solution would not be a frenzied effort to build windmills and solar contraptions in rural Colorado.
This state has an absolute problem that all can see and anyone can prove. It’s called unemployment and economic fragility and it poses a far more imminent threat than global warming.
This is no time to raise the overhead on families and businesses to fund the utopian dreams of environmental extremists. The market can, should and will move all of Colorado in the direction of more renewable energy if and when it makes economic sense. State imposition of bad investments and higher rates will only kill jobs and hurt our feeble economy, while doing nothing to benefit Gov. Hickenlooper.
Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this op-ed originally appeared.