It was a little over a month ago when Russia, a longtime oil titan, invaded Ukraine. Today, gas prices are skyrocketing as an international tragedy unfolds.
What is happening to the Ukrainian people is horrible. The humanitarian catastrophe they face is the primary global concern. For a moment, however, I want to focus on the economic and security implications for Coloradons, and what our state could do to reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy.
Why? Every time the Coloradans fill their reservoirs, they invest in foreign powers. Even though almost all Coloradians and Americans vehemently oppose Vladimir Putin’s needless military aggression, we are dependent on foreign countries for oil and remain handcuffed to the political whims of world leaders who do not have the best interests at heart. America’s superior.
It doesn’t have to be like that. Colorado is home to a major oil and gas industry, as well as a growing renewable energy industry. Our own policies prevent our state from feeding America and ending our nation’s dependence on authoritarians like Putin.
I urge Governor Jared Polis to reverse the negative impacts of Senate Bill 19-181, which he signed into law in 2019, and which ceased to be an outright ban on drilling.
Since the adoption of the SB-181, our state’s booming oil and gas industry has shrunk significantly. Over 8,000 jobs have been lost from 2019 to date. Innovation and investment stifled. Our ability to contribute to America’s oil independence, and therefore to America’s national security, has been severely reduced. This call to reverse SB-181 comes at a time when the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Colorado is up more than $1 from a year ago.
Price volatility due to 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. American 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 into the United States, making push crude oil prices to their all time highs. 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, we often rank among the top energy producers in the country, and our county is earning a reputation for setting the best environmental practices.
With the passage of SB-181 and other policy changes since, Colorado’s energy industry will incur nearly $160 million in new direct regulatory costs each year, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. This figure does not include recently passed rules on financial assurance and greenhouse gases, which are expected to generate more than $106 million.
Oil and gas production is down 20% in Colorado since Polis took office in 2019. Only 14 of 33 rigs in 2019 are operating today. In 2018, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved 440 location permits, including 292 in Weld County. In 2021, the COGCC approved five locate permits, including three at Weld.
Since 2015, Colorado’s oil and gas industry has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, leading all other industries in pollution reduction. Changes to 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 really mean what he said in making sure Colorado has no investments in Russia. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Polis has legitimately shown its support for Ukraine and its contempt for Putin’s Russia. Press releases and social media posts from the governor’s office have been issued, but Polis’ words and actions contradict each other. Governor Polis cannot tell voters that his position represents Ukraine when his administrative policies and those of Colorado’s majority Democratic leadership are aimed at shutting down Colorado’s oil and gas industry.
Because of policies like SB-181, we are now investing in Russia by buying their oil. I heard Polis say that it is time to accelerate the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Let’s have this conversation. Let’s really say it when talking about nuclear power plants and investments in hydrogen technologies. The natural gas produced in Weld County serves as a transition fuel to this cleaner future.
Governor Polis, lean on Weld County for solutions. Myself and our county commissioners will be at your disposal. Republican leaders will work with your office in a truly bipartisan effort.
Our state can stop funding Russia by putting Coloradians back to work and allowing us to produce power in Colorado.
Scott James is a member of the Weld County Board of Commissioners.
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