Mountain States

Colorado Emissions Roadmap Acknowledges Crucial Role Of Oil & Natural Gas

Last week’s Air Quality Control Commission hearing revealed deep ideological divisions among its members, but also an acknowledgement that oil and natural gas should play a crucial role in Colorado’s economy.

After the Colorado State Assembly passed HB 1261 in 2019 that mandated reducing statewide GHG pollution 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels,  Gov. Jared Polis’ Administration was tasked to develop a “Roadmap” to achieve these goals.

Upon the Roadmap’s release last month, it was criticized by environmental activist groups who said it was “missing the most essential elements for progress,” and that there needed to be “a sense of urgency.” One group even filed a lawsuit against the Polis Administration for failing to introduce the Roadmap earlier this summer.

But now that the Roadmap has been unveiled, some commissioners with a clear agenda against the oil and natural gas are ready to take direct aim at the industry. During the Friday afternoon session, Commissioner Elise Jones, who also serves as a Boulder County Commissioner and is part of a climate lawsuit against two energy companies in the state, compared oil and natural gas to coal and said the commission should focus on eliminating the industry:

 “At some point, do we not need to think about oil and gas in the same way that we think about coal? We’ve worked hard, you know, we can reduce methane leaks at mines, but that’s not enough. We actually had to transition off of coal, and we’re closing coal plants. And while the trajectory for oil and gas is not the same, the timeline is not the same, it’s still a fossil fuel and burning it is what’s creating this problem, so we also do need to set a timeline and think about that transition as well.”

“… I feel like we’re not having that conversation yet and just want to say ‘hello’ to the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the corner and acknowledge that we need to be including that in our roadmap.”

But Jones’ comments don’t align with the Roadmap that the administration released just a few weeks ago. That plan still envisions gasoline-powered vehicles on the road in Colorado for the next 30 years and probably even beyond 2050 while also planning for the use of natural gas-fired power plants during that same time period.

And why wouldn’t it when data continues to show robust oil and natural gas consumption, now and into the future. For instance, a U.S. Department of Energy report found that “nearly 70 percent of energy consumed in the United States comes from oil and natural gas products.” Likewise, the Energy Information Administration forecasts electricity generation from natural gas to remain on par with renewables in 2050.

Oil and natural gas produce a lot more than electricity. Petroleum byproducts help manufacture all sorts of different items like snow skis and other sporting equipment, household essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, and shaving cream, along with clothes, shoes, eyeglasses, and vital medical equipment like heart valves, anesthetics, and dentures. For Jones to call for a quick phaseout out of oil and natural gas would undermine not just energy, but many other major sectors of the economy.

Furthermore, the comparison to coal ignores the tremendous emissions reductions the United States has achieved in the past 15 years. As Energy In Depth has previously reported, electricity generation from natural gas resulted in 57 percent more emissions reductions than renewables from 2005 to 2018. This has secured the United States as the global leader in emissions reductions.

Fellow AQCC Commissioner Chris Rueter responded to Jones and said the Roadmap must consider supply and demand and that it would be foolish to shut down Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry if it only means importing dirtier energy from foreign countries that don’t share our environmental and social values:

 “From my perspective, oil and gas production is driven by supply and demand. So, where there is a demand for oil and gas, companies, nations will produce it. … Over the long haul, as we decarbonize energy use and demand goes down then supply will go down. I think an interesting question though is as you go down that ramp, where do you want the supply to come from?”

“Do you want the supply to come from places like Colorado that have the arguably some of the cleanest barrels and cleanest MCF of gas on the planet because of our environmental rules or do you want it come from places with less stringent environmental rules and oil and gas with arguably a larger environmental footprint. … Where do you want that supply to come from? Do you want it to come from foreign countries that maybe don’t respect human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, etc.?”

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