Mountain States

Former CO Gov. Bill Ritter Pushes Back Against McKibben’s Extreme “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” Agenda

Former Colorado governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, spoke today at the After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy” conference taking place at Oberlin College in Ohio on a panel covering “Climate Leadership.” But in a sharp contrast to remarks by co-founder and “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” leader Bill McKibben, Ritter talked about the importance of collaboration on energy issues. From Ritter’s remarks:

So it is really interesting to have been here for the last few days, or couple days and especially to have heard the presentation last night by Bill McKibben and some of the presentations made this morning because I would say that I do come at this from a bit of a different orientation. I am a lawyer by training, I was a prosecutor for twenty years, was the elected DA in Denver and was not a person who had really involved myself in climate and energy things in a really big way until I decided to become a candidate for governor in Colorado. “(3:18-3:18:43)

Ritter went on:

“I’ve chosen this place of policy, and it’s interesting to think about Bill McKibben’s remarks last night and what I call empowering toward the need for speed and to being dedicated to trying to change things through the policy lens. It’s a difficult, difficult thing to do. I hosted a seminar at Colorado State University last week, we had a former chief economist from BP, Christof Rühl, who was part of it because we believe in never having echo-chambers to try and get people of diverse thought to really have the hard discussions.” (3:19-3:20)

Ritter’s comments offered a dramatic departure for a conference that has been dominated by an extreme fringe anti-fossil fuel agenda pushed by activists like McKibben and San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who is scheduled to address the conference later this evening. In fact, McKibben’s agenda is so extreme that – as he admitted – it’s not been very popular with President Obama or presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. As McKibben told the audience:

“If Hillary Clinton wins the White House the democratic platform, which thanks to Bernie, I got to help write, he got to name five of the fifteen platform writers and by hanging tough, he made sure that a lot of what we wanted managed to make its way in. Well one of the things that’s in there is a promise that there will be an emergency climate summit within the first 100 days of the new administration  with an eye toward a mobilization like World War II to get us going. I will tell you that this was not completely popular with the people who were negotiating for the Clinton team, but they went along with it and I’m sure they will hold it. And if they do if there are scientists gathered in the White house to discuss this, we will need hundreds of thousands of people out in the street and you are going to need to get on buses and trains and get from Ohio to D.C. for that day.”

Ritter’s comments come a day after Colorado’s current governor John Hickenlooper (D) told a gathering of environmental law attorneys in Denver that he hoped the next administration would set a “new tone” with regard to energy issues. As E&E News reports:

“There has to be a better way,” he said. “There has to be a way for Republicans and Democrats to come together to reach an agreement on certain important public policies.”

Unlike the fringe “Keep It In The Ground” narrative that has dominated the talks at the conference, Ritter, like Hickenlooper supports domestic energy production and has acknowledged that natural gas is an important element of a clean energy future. As Ritter recently said,

“If you passed a national ban, this industry would go away and it would be harder for us to get to our place of transition on clean energy and climate.” (emphasis added)

Fortunately, speakers like former governor Ritter have offered balance and perspective on what has been a Colorado success story when it comes to domestic energy development.  Despite the extreme rhetoric coming from McKibben, there are many more elected officials like Ritter and Hickenlooper who are joining with statewide groups, local stakeholders and even some of our nation’s most prominent Democrats to speak out in opposition to this radical and misguided campaign.

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