Conservative commentary: Colorado's 'no energy' economy

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— As if paying $4-plus for gasoline isn't bad enough, some of Colorado's political leaders seem bound and determined to spread pain at the pump to the cost of heating our homes this winter and for decades to come.

Ours is a beautiful state with an abundance of natural resources: silver and gold lured early pioneers, mountain vistas and ski slopes keep visitors coming year after year, and abundant energy sources fuel our economy and our way of life.

Not long ago, political leaders of both parties understood that the energy sector is vital to the economic health of our state and actively worked to utilize those resources while applying responsible protections for the environment.

Unfortunately, energy has now become a political football. Republicans play the traditional role of advancing affordable energy development, while Democrats try to freeze traditional energy sources.

According to Fortune, our junior senator, Ken Salazar, "has emerged as the Senate's leading oil shale opponent," fighting for a moratorium against further development. Never mind that Shell invested millions in oil shale research: "Salazar's efforts have essentially pulled the rug out from under (it)."

Oil shale reserves in the Green River Formation, which underlies parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, are staggering. A Rand Corporation study calls it the largest known oil shale deposit in the world, with 1.5 to 1.8 trillion barrels of crude oil.

Nearly half of those deposits - 800 billion barrels, triple the known crude reserves in Saudi Arabia - are recoverable using existing technology, if only Salazar and company would get out of the way.

With gas prices soaring, Salazar's wannabe Senate sidekick, Boulder Congressman Mark Udall, called a news conference to tell Colorado families that high gasoline prices aren't going away, so we need to be more fuel efficient.

File that inspirational note next to Jimmy Carter's fireside chats about economic "malaise."

Udall's plan to do something about soaring gas prices is a confounding concoction combining economic illiteracy and wishful thinking:

- Crack down on price-gouging. Straight from the far-left playbook of MoveOn.org, liberals rant against price-gouging, fully aware that evidence of actual price-gouging is scarce as hen's teeth.

- Stop "subsidizing" the oil and gas industry. Udall wants to eliminate tax credits that U.S. oil companies receive for taxes paid to foreign governments, and he would eliminate a tax deduction for domestic production. This amounts to penalizing American companies when they bring their overseas profits back home and for creating jobs to produce oil in the U.S.

- Move away from corn to cellulosic ethanol. Ethanol mandates contribute to price distortions, but the technology for turning corn into fuel is years ahead of research on switchgrass. The lesson from our ethanol experience should be that politicians are ill-equipped to predict where technology and economics will converge.

Say what you will about oil and gas producers, but remember that they don't get paid if they don't produce. If Salazar, Udall and Ritter get their way, Coloradans will be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves but sending our money to the likes of OPEC and Hugo Chavez.

Mark Hillman operates a family farm near Burlington, Colorado, is a former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate, a former Colorado State Treasurer, and is an honorary member of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.

Comments

Eric J. Bowman 6 years, 1 month ago

So you're saying that because Shell invested a lot of money, their right to extract synthetic oil from shale outweighs our right to extract clean water from the ground underneath? From June 26th's minutes of the Oak Creek Town Board:

"Trustee Voorhis explained that he had to do an inspection on the oil well that exploded last year and that the oil seepage from that got to about 8 feet from the creek which is our municipal water supply and if the oil had been quantities sufficient then we would have had to shut down our water intake and would have been without water within 24 hours."

The oil industry's track record on groundwater contamination certainly gives me no comfort, considering how much more extraction is already slated for NW CO. In-situ oil-shale extraction not only uses an abundance of water, but poses a higher risk of groundwater contamination than any other method of energy production. Funny this isn't mentioned. Darn that Senator Salazar, refusing to sacrifice our watershed for oil!

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 1 month ago

Brent, This conservative commentary is imported half the time, but it is always an attack. Never does it have an idea poised on its own merit.

Please consider either stopping it or placing some standard on their tripe.

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 1 month ago

I regret using "tripe" to describe the conservative columns. My apologies.

Making the other side look bad is a downward spiral that puts solutions out of reach. We need conservative input to reach that solution.

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Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

The liberals are desparate to reclaim the white house. The Nixon pardon and Ross Perot have provided their only shot since LBJ. They were crushed by the Bush victory. Who has been doing most of the attacking? A large fund has been set up to trash Bush far into the future. No more ghosts like Ronald Reagan to haunt them. What we have here is the people who produce and solve problems being attacked by latter day,self proclaimed, Robin Hoods. If the Dems,by some miracle, end up in the white house they will need to tone their message and move to the right or reelection will never happen.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

Fred: interesting wording- "What we have here is the people who produce and solve problems being attacked..." Produce and solve problems, huh? Maybe we Republicans are producing more problems than solving, though. This commentary is also interesting in it's wording:

"Republicans play the traditional role of advancing affordable energy development, while Democrats try to freeze traditional energy sources."

A Democrat could say the exact same thing but change the wording to their favor. Sample:

"Republicans play the traditional role of advancing old ideas of energy that pollute, while Democrats try to advance newer and renewable sources to lessen pollution and create new industry."

Says the exact same thing, just depending on what side you are on.

Plus, since oil producers have had record profits, why shouldn't we take some of the money WE have given they thru tax breaks and now toss it over to renewable energy producers? Give them a little more incentive to mass produce at lower costs to the public?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

And two other questions, Fred- as a contractor, in your business do you always use what's cheapest even if it's not the best?

And as an American, would you believe that spending more money to better the nation as a whole is worth it?

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Steve Lewis 6 years, 1 month ago

Fred, You do have to be kidding about anyone needing a "fund to trash Bush far into the future". His legacy is a benchmark low in leadership we may never recover from. No fund will be required.

I pity his dad though. It must hurt.

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Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

Steve and Matt. Elephants don't pay much attention to mosquitos but I appreciate the effort. The free markets will sort this all out. I'm all for conservation and alternatives but no one is holding them back. There is a buck to be made here yet no one can seem to the unlock the secrets. I predict oil may have to carry us for a long time. If the global warming predictions are accurate, nuclears downside seems insignificant.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

Maybe it's not jump-starting because someone in the oil industry gets all the extra juice when after posting record profits, they obviously don't need those hand-outs any longer. They can thrive on their own even in the current market situation.

So why shouldn't that money be diverted to renewable sources? As you yourself just said, "The free markets will sort this out." So why keep giving tax incentives to the oil companies if the free market will sort it out?

I'm kind of surprised you didn't bother answer the questions I posed, though.

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Murray Tucker 6 years, 1 month ago

When Exxon (as an example) extracts oil from Saudi Arabia they pay a royalty. They then claim this is a "foreign tax" subject to a credit against Federal Corporate tax. When Exxon extracts oil from U.S. ground they pay a removal fee. Their profit is fully taxable. Now where would you like to buy your oil if you are Exxon?

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Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Matt. I don't view day to day events as proof positive.Being a conservative I take a long range view. If we win a large contract I am not immediately on cloud nine. I'll decide when the job is done if our decisions were good or bad. Micromanagers usually lack wisdom.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

So, you don't actually make a bid based on costs? Plus, oil isn't the long range view. Even most conservatives agree on that. It's a temporary fix since it isn't a renewable source. How much of a long range view are you taking?

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billinboat 6 years, 1 month ago

I posted this last week repsonding to another column/discussion. It is just as applicable here and required no additional use of carbon.

August 13, 2008 at 1:35 p.m. ° Suggest removal We now have the best opportunity we have ever had to move away from an oil based energy economy toward renewables. Why has no one mentioned that conservation is the best current option rather than drilling our way out of it. T Boone Pickens gets it, says it, and is putting his money behind renewables. Ethanol is a boondoggle funded by our tax dollars. Wind and solar are the future and if we are going to subsidize some sort of energy, this is the direction to go. MIT has just announced a major breakthrough in solar. I say we cannot afford to allow gasoline to be cheap again. It will only delay the opportunity we have in front of us now. Behavior will change, consumers will adjust. No one should be guaranteeing that our gas guzzlers should be inexpensive to operate.

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Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

Matt, you seem to be describing yourself as a Nader Republican.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

LOL! No, maybe just a McCain Republican...before he won the nomination. He sounds too much like Bush now.

Still, Fred, why avoid the questions I asked? They were simple, friendly questions and should be fairly easy to give a straight answer to. It makes me wonder: if by answering those questions honestly, would you be stepping out of bounds with the Far Right mindset and they'll take the decoder ring away? (Just kidding!) Be free, Fred! Speak your mind!

Let's have an honest conversation and answer each other's questions instead of side-stepping them. Side-stepping only makes it more dubious sounding, which is part of the reason the Democrats took over Congress in 2006. It also will never allow any "conversion" you were looking for.

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Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

OK Matt, so I make a nice profit this year and you want to take some of it to train young contractors. What other industries should be included in your scheme. Only mine? Next year I find that things are not going my way. and I lose a bundle. Are you socialists going to help me with the shortfall. The only fair thing to do would be for the government to take over and do the right thing. This would start a chain of micromanaging that would never end. Then the liberals could more than wannabee quarterbacks. Don't masquerade as a Republican please. you are embarassing yourself.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

Fred- I didn't say take the profits; just the socialist tax break they get. That is what you would call it, right?

In fact, they were just given 2.6 million more acres in Alaska last month, right?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/17/us/17alaska.html?partner=rssnyt

And if sitting on leases for some other 60 million acres isn't producing anything because they think they're "tapped out" or because "it's too expensive to research", they should be pouring those profits back into the company. Isn't that what the free market does? Oil & gas leases don't have to "produce" to keep the lease. Funny how that one works.

http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/images/Documents/hr6251.pdf

So sorry, but to give that & tax breaks to the oil companies sounds mighty socialist. You wouldn't want that, now would you? Hmmmm...who's masquerading as whom, I wonder? So, by providing larger tax breaks for oil over newer, cleaner fuels...I'd say that has nothing to do with the "free" market sorting it out. The government should even out the tax breaks or put that money elsewhere altogether, wouldn't you think? Isn't that how a true free market should work?

And yes- I am a Republican. I just know when and where my party is wrong and can admit it. Change comes from within and old ideas in the pastures need to stay there with the rest of what the cow drops. The embarrassing thing is when people who call themselves independent thinkers keep using the party line talking points because they can't truly think for themselves. They've been indoctrinated and can't admit it.

So no need to get pissy about it; this is a conversation. If you want to have a little fun with me, fine. I've had some at your expense, and I've tried to make it overly easy to read that way. Otherwise, this becomes the same pissing match as in the past I'm trying to avoid out of respect for Brent, the posters here, and this site.

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Craig Schifter 6 years, 1 month ago

In an effort to educate myself more on the process of oil extraction from oil shale, I goggled www.oilshale.com and was directed to a Wikipedia web site that had more information than I ever wanted to know about oil shale.

The first bit of information that jumped out at me was that oil shale can not be used to produce gasoline because it does not contain the full range of hydrocarbons required for modern gas production. So, if this is true, it seems that Mr. Hillman is completely out of touch with the oil shale debate. Oil shale can produce kerosene, jet fuel and diesel fuel.

Secondly was the pollution effects from oil shale production and use. I think anyone that is serious about promoting oil shale to oil production should take a long hard look at these effects and seriously consider if Colorado, Wyoming and Utah can afford the outcome.

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JLM 6 years, 1 month ago

Any pretroleum product which comes from the "cracking" of crude will be replaced by any other product (even if a different product) from shale oil. Jet fuel (JP4) from shale oil goes up while JP4 from crude goes down thereby providing more feedstock for gasoline production (of a higher quality). With gasoline it is not so much what comes out but rather what they put back in. Remember lead?

Oil exploration will be as clean as the regulators make them keep it.

None of this stuff is rocket science.

Every form of energy is linked in some fashion to another and usually many or even all others.

Wind, solar, hydro, tidal, geOOOOOOOOOOOthermal (my personal favorite), hydrogen --- oil, coal, shale --- nuclear. Do them all and do them all well.

Unlock the energy and transform it into the form that you can use and store. The storage challenge may be the key to long term freedom. We have got to develop better and better batteries.

As T Bone Pickens is picking your pocket remember that the challenge with wind is "transmission" --- how to get it from where the wind blows to where the energy is used. T Bone wants to produce wind energy and get you to foot the bill for all those freakin's ROWs and transmission lines. Kind of like a peanut farmer in Georgia wanting a road to Colorado Springs to sell his crops.

You watch, T Bone will get his eventually. Remember when he said "..water will ultimately become more expensive than gasoline...". Think about that next time the Evian bubbles are tickling your nose.

And, hey, have a nice damn day!

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