Colorado's governor sees climate efforts as an economic engine

By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Jan. 12, 2018 at 6:25 AM
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Jan. 12 (UPI) -- In his final State of the State address, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper focused more on clean air as an economic driver than the state's shale riches.

Colorado is rich in shale oil reserves, supplying about 3 percent of total U.S. crude oil production in large part from its Niobrara and DJ basins. As a whole, Colorado produces around 374,000 barrels of oil per day.

But it was clean energy that got the most mention in the Democratic governor's final annual address. In his state, Xcel Energy, which boasted of its emissions reductions and wind-power plans, committed to closing two coal-fired power plants.

With President Donald Trump working to support the fossil fuels industry, Hickenlooper said cleaning up the state economy would be what lead to greater investments in a 21st century energy sector.

"Clean air matters," he said in his remarks.

The governor said Colorado amended half of its rules and regulations, which by his account saved businesses working in the state nearly $8 million.

As Trump works to dismantle regulations on oil and gas operations, Hickenlooper boasted that his state has the "first and best" regulations that deal with methane, extended protections to threatened species and is one of the pioneers of a Western corridor for electric vehicles.

More than 90 percent of all transportation-related energy consumption in the United States comes from petroleum-based products, with electric vehicles accounting only for a small fraction of total consumer use. In October, however, the governor led a bipartisan coalition of Western states in announcing plans for an electric vehicle corridor that would affect more than 5,000 miles of highway.

Before the governor's speech, Colorado Senate Republicans introduced a proposal to overhaul the state energy office and rename the state's clean and renewable energy fund as the "energy fund," because GOP leaders said the current name indicates Colorado plays favorites.

"Colorado is blessed to be an energy superpower among states, enjoying an array of energy options most of them can't even dream of, yet our energy office had become an obscure, rudderless, dysfunctional backwater, focused on minutia rather than promoting a big picture energy future for the state," Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott said in a statement.

Hickenlooper said that even those that disagree on climate issues can agree, however, that Colorado needs to protect the environment in order to build an economy for the future.

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