It was a little more than a month ago when Russia, a longtime oil titan, invaded Ukraine. Today, gas prices are soaring as an international tragedy unfolds.
What is happening to the people of Ukraine is horrific. The humanitarian catastrophe they face is the world’s first concern. For a moment, however, I want to focus on the economic and security implications for Coloradans, and what our state could be doing to lessen America’s dependence on foreign energy.
Why? Every time Coloradans fill their tanks, they invest in foreign powers. Even though almost every Coloradan and American vehemently opposes Vladimir Putin’s needless military aggression, we depend on foreign countries for oil and remain handcuffed to the political whims of world leaders who do not have America’s best interest at heart.
It does not have to be this way. Colorado is home to a major oil and gas industry, as well as an evolving renewable energy industry. Our own policies are holding our state back in fueling America and ending our nation’s reliance on authoritarians like Putin.
I urge Gov. Jared Polis to reverse the negative impacts of Senate Bill 19-181, which he signed into law in 2019, and which stopped just short of being an outright ban on drilling.
Since the passage of SB-181, our state’s booming oil and gas industry has dramatically declined. More than 8,000 jobs were lost from 2019 to now. Innovation and investment stifled. Our ability to contribute to America’s oil independence, thus, America’s national security, has been severely curtailed. This call to reverse SB-181 comes at a time when the average price of a gallon of gas in Colorado is up over $1 from a year ago.
The price volatility from the Russian invasion underscores how America’s role in the global marketplace – where oil prices are set — is not yet “energy independent.” Russia remains an oil supplier. U.S. companies imported 250 million barrels of oil and fuel from Russia in 2021. And since the invasion, President Biden has banned the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States, driving up crude oil prices to their highest levels since 2008.
Despite the best efforts of Polis and his Democratic party, Weld County remains Colorado’s top energy producing county. We are number one in oil production, frequently rank as one of the nation’s top energy producers, and our county is earning a reputation in setting best environmental practices.
With the passage of SB-181 and other policy shifts since, the energy industry in Colorado will annually incur nearly $160 million in new regulatory direct costs every year, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. This number doesn’t include recently adopted rules on financial assurance and greenhouse gasses, which are anticipated to drive upwards of $106 million.
Oil and gas production is down 20 percent in Colorado since Polis took office in 2019. Only 14 of the 33 rigs drilling in 2019 are operating today. In 2018, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved 440 location permits, 292 of those in Weld County. In 2021, the COGCC approved five location permits, three of which were in Weld.
Since 2015, the oil and gas industry in Colorado has significantly curtailed its greenhouse gas emissions, leading all other industries in pollution reduction. Changes in Weld County land-use codes make it easier and more efficient for renewable energy developers to produce fuels that increase our national security.
I want our Governor to truly mean his words about ensuring that Colorado has no investments in Russia. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Polis has rightfully shown his support for Ukraine and disdain for Putin’s Russia. Press statements and social media posts from the Governor’s office have come out, yet Polis’ words and actions contradict one another. Governor Polis cannot tell voters that his office stands for Ukraine when his administrative policies and that of Colorado’s largely Democratic leadership are working to halt Colorado’s oil and gas industry.
Because of policies like SB-181, we now invest in Russia by buying their oil. I’ve heard Polis say that it is time to accelerate the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Let’s have that conversation. Let’s truly mean it by discussing nuclear power plants and investment in hydrogen technologies. Natural gas produced in Weld County serves as a bridge fuel to this cleaner future.
Governor Polis, lean on Weld County for solutions. Myself and our county commissioners will avail ourselves to you. Republican leaders will work with your office in a truly bipartisan effort.
Our state can stop funding Russia by putting Coloradans back to work and allowing us to produce energy in Colorado.
Scott James is a member of the Weld County Board of Commissioners.
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