Colorado’s new energy committee: Which way will Democrats go?
Western Wire’s Simon Lomax previewed this year’s energy debate in the Colorado state legislature in a guest commentary for the Colorado Springs Gazette. The piece, published yesterday, asks which side of the Democratic Party will show up when a newly formed committee on energy and environmental policy convenes in the Republican-run state Senate:
On one side, there’s the [Tom] Steyer wing of the party, which wants to rid the state of fossil fuels, mandate the use of much more costly renewable sources, and give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expansive new powers over the state’s energy sector. On the other side, you have the blue-collar wing that supports oil, natural gas and coal production, and worries about job losses from anti-fossil fuel laws and EPA regulations.
In 2016, Steyer and national environmental groups made a huge play for dominance within the Democratic coalition. Together they spent well over $100 million, according to the Washington Post, in a crusade to make the environment – and especially climate change – a top campaign issue.
But the move backfired. It angered organized labor and some trade unions openly attacked Steyer’s agenda. “His vision of leaving oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels in the ground kills jobs, drives up energy costs, and threatens to strangle our economy,” the Laborers International Union of North America warned months before the election. But the climate push continued, eroding Clinton’s support among blue-collar voters, especially in the industrial Midwest.
Early signs suggest the two Democrats on the committee, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) and Deputy Minority Leader for Conservation, Clean Energy and Climate Change Matt Jones (D-Louisville) are sticking with the Steyer playbook. But that may not be the wisest course of action in one of the nation’s top energy producing states:
Jones has been dismissive of energy and mining and their critical role in the state’s economy. “We need to keep Colorado an attractive state & not an extractive state,” he said on Facebook.
Unfortunately, this kind of rhetoric puts Jones and Guzman on a collision course with reality. True, Colorado has a sizable renewable energy industry and the state has imposed some aggressive – and controversial – renewable energy targets for the future. But at the same time, 89 percent of the energy consumed in Colorado still comes from oil, natural gas and coal, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Over time, as renewables get cheaper and more reliable, this will most likely change. But trying to force that transition with anti-fossil fuel policies will jeopardize thousands of jobs in Colorado’s energy sector and across the broader economy.
To read the full commentary, visit the Colorado Springs Gazette.