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7/14/2018 Member News
REGINA THOMSON: Green activism endangers Colorado's economy

Regina Thomson: Green Activism Endangers Colorado's economy

Regina Thomson
July 14, 2018


Colorado municipalities have declared war on oil and natural gas companies.

Boulder just sued ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy for allegedly exacerbating climate change.

Longmont officials decided to end surface oil and gas drilling. And Fort Collins is supporting a lawsuit, which currently is under review at the Colorado Supreme Court, that seeks to curb energy exploration.

If local officials succeed in driving away the state's energy firms, thousands of Coloradans will lose their jobs. Ironically, the environment will suffer, too.

Oil and natural gas firms are some of Colorado's largest employers. They support 230,000 jobs in industries ranging from retail and manufacturing to construction and transportation. These firms and their vendors collectively pay out more than $23 billion in wages and inject more than $31 billion into the state economy.

Oil and natural gas jobs are high-paying, too. Excluding retail gas station workers, oil and natural gas employees' wages exceed the United States median wage by 90 percent. On average, industry workers brought home $101,000 in 2015.

The industry is one of Colorado's largest taxpayers. It pumps $202 million to Colorado schools via property taxes. That money pays for special education programs, geometry classes, vocational programs, uniforms and more. In 2014, natural gas and oil firms also funneled more than $25 million to Colorado health and human services programs and more than $10 million to fix and maintain highways.

And thanks to increased local production, the natural gas industry has helped residents save on their energy bills. Our state is producing twice as much natural gas as it did in 2001. This ample supply of natural gas helps drive down prices. Colorado has the fourth cheapest natural gas prices in the country. Prices have steadily declined since 2014.

Affordable natural gas prices aren't a luxury for our state; they're a necessity. Coloradoans consume 30 percent more natural gas and 6 percent more refined energy products like gasoline than they did in 2000. In fact, three in four Colorado households -- more than in almost any other state -- use natural gas as their main source of heat.

Activists in Boulder, Fort Collins and Longmont believe these economic benefits come at the expense of our environment. They're wrong.

By replacing coal with clean-burning natural gas, power plants have lowered emissions. In 2016, carbon emissions from power generation reached a 30-year low.

And together with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, local firms prioritize health and safety. The commission helps firms prevent waste, protect land rights, safeguard public health and protect the environment.

Oil and gas companies strengthen our state's economy without drastically harming the environment. They help heat our homes, employ our neighbors and fund our highways and schools. Colorado residents can't afford for misguided activists to win their ill-conceived war on these fuels.

Regina Thomson is president of the Colorado Issues Coalition, a nonprofit supporting reform in state government, protecting civil liberties and addressing issues that are timely and critical to the voters of Colorado.

https://www.chieftain.com/opinion/ideas/regina-thomson-green-activism-endangers-colorado-s-economy/article_b393aa12-930f-57cf-b520-cc493ddcb770.html