Energy, Environment, Politics

Getting their ‘fringe’ on: Greens bring extreme national groups to Denver suburbs

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes - used by permission
Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission

For years in Colorado, anti-fracking activists have worked hard to conceal their close ties to fringe national environmental groups and big environmental donors. They have called such ties “obviously ridiculous” and strenuously denied “pushing some sort of nefarious agenda.” They’ve told the news media “this isn’t about banning fracking” while at the same time working hand-in-hand with national “ban fracking” groups.

The reason is simple. Colorado is a major producer of coal, oil and natural gas and fringe environmental groups want to ban the production of coal, oil and natural gas. Not regulate it. End it. They even have a slogan: “Keep it in the ground.”

The economic impact of banning fossil-fuel production would be enormous, of course. Energy production is a mainstay of the state economy, just like agriculture. Wiping out the energy sector would drag down the rest of the Colorado economy, too, and not just because of the many thousands of jobs that would be sacrificed.

Roughly 81 percent of the energy that runs the American economy comes from fossil fuels – and fringe environmental groups also oppose the eight percent that comes from nuclear. If you eliminate almost 90 percent of the nation’s energy sources, it will force people to use more expensive and less reliable alternatives, like wind, solar and cars that run on electric batteries. But more than that, cutting off the nation’s access to affordable and reliable energy would bring the economy to a grinding halt – not to mention our way of life.

icon_op_edEnvironmental activists know this. They know the American way of life is fairly popular with American voters. They know the voters would never willfully support a campaign to crash the economy and make their lives harder.

Therefore, in states like Colorado, the activists pretend their campaign is about something else. Instead of banning the vast majority of energy sources, the activists talk instead about “local control” and pushing oil and natural gas development further away from buildings and places of “special concern.” But the effect is more or less the same. Just ask Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who has called such proposals “radical” and “extreme” because they would “drive oil and gas out of Colorado.”

So, despite the best efforts of the activists, the local branch of the national campaign to ban 90 percent of America’s energy sources just isn’t working. Anyone who’s paying attention knows exactly who they are and exactly what they stand for.

Maybe the activists are done pretending. Or maybe they have a really low opinion of the public and the intelligence of the Colorado news media. Either way, their campaign just took an interesting turn. They have decided to bring Bill McKibben, co-founder of the fringe environmental group 350.org, into this year’s anti-energy campaign in Colorado.



McKibben plans to headline a rally in the Denver suburbs this weekend in support of two proposed statewide ballot measures, Boulder Weekly reports. The activists claim these measures are about giving communities more of a say about where energy development takes place. But McKibben’s endorsement, and the involvement of other fringe groups like Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Rainforest Action Network, give the game away.

McKibben doesn’t care whether local governments support or oppose energy production. He doesn’t care where it happens. He doesn’t support fossil-fuel production anywhere. He only wants to kill it. In his own words, he intends to “drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel.” In fact, McKibben is the guy who thought up “keep it in the ground” and convinced California billionaire Tom Steyer to join the cause.

Trouble is, McKibben’s views are so extreme they make other environmentalists cringe. “I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve,” Sally Jewell, President Obama’s Interior Secretary and a former board member of a national environmental group, said recently. “We don’t yet have solar-powered cars,” she added. John Podesta, a former adviser in the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, has said activists who “oppose all fossil fuels” are being “completely impractical.”

More recently, Gov. Hickenlooper dismissed anti-fossil fuel activists as a “small minority” and “not an accurate representation of the people of Colorado.” He also warned “we’re a long way from saying we can walk away from hydrocarbons and not do significant damage to our economy.”

For the activists running this year’s anti-fracking campaign, bringing McKibben from Vermont to Colorado to headline a rally is a spectacularly bad idea. For the rest of us, it’s a great one. It shows once again who’s really in charge and what’s really at stake in November.

Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at simon@i2i.org.

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