Friday, April 24, 2015

Can We Skip The Brain Damage

No one knows whether the fracking wars in Colorado will resolve themselves in months or years. And we don’t know how far the political pendulum will swing toward restricting or banning development before moderating.

Here’s what we do know: at some point, as a state, we will settle on embracing oil and gas development because we demand the product. Constantly. Certainly. At an affordable price. In every aspect of our lives.

I am a passionate centrist. In this blog, that means calling a spade a spade. How much brain damage must we endure before we reach the obvious conclusion?

Dropping the Villain

It may be fashionable in your circle to vilify and dismiss participants in the fracking discussion; however, the only villains worth ignoring are the drill-baby-drill and ban-fracking extremists. The rest: oil and gas employees, concerned citizens, environmentalists and the many combinations and variations of those three, are worth engaging.

Here’s the deal: we all have more in common than not on energy issues. Choose any two people, and my guess is we share at least five out of these six:
  • We use oil and gas products everyday (for transportation, home heating, cooking)
  • We use oil and gas by-products everyday (synthetic fabrics, plastics, electronics)
  • We are price sensitive to oil and gas products and by-products, or at least care about affordability for our less-affluent neighbors.
  • We love Colorado and want to protect its air, water, and scenery.
  • We are committed to the protection of our families and communities including health and safety and quality of life.

Fundamentally, we are all energy consumers and some of us are also energy producers. Villains? Not so much. By focusing on all that we have in common, we can engage our listening and empathy skills to discuss the items on which we disagree.

The Political Pendulum

Suppose that Colorado communities, or voters across the state, decide to make production of oil and gas increasingly difficult, or even ban it all together, then what? I recently met with a delegate from Mexico who was here to study our oil and gas business and regulatory structure as Mexico prepares for their own private-sector investment and the many challenges and benefits that follow. We discussed the state regulatory structure, the roles of local government, the 150-year history of development in the state, the jobs, the tax base, and the possibility of state-wide initiatives.

Initially, he was dismissive of the risks of a statewide ballot initiative. We discussed at length the real risks to investment and development in Colorado. He stated, Surely Coloradans would not risk all this?!

It’s interesting how much we take for granted this cornerstone of life as we know it and the myriad energy, economic, and quality of life benefits of having oil and gas development in our state. It made me ponder – how far will we have to go, to appreciate the blessings of this resource?

I hope not far. But one thing is certain: hindering Colorado oil and gas development will raise awareness of how truly fundamental it is to every aspect of our life. Small changes in just the price of gasoline for cars or natural gas for home heating have huge ramifications on pocket books throughout our communities. And over $1.6B in annual public revenues have far reaching implications for coffers across the state, with more than $500M going to education alone each year.

I’d like to suggest we skip the brain damage of a wakeup call, and instead focus our attention on the conversations that aren’t so sexy, but allow us to enjoy the petroleum-based life that we all lead. Let’s focus on discussions of HOW to produce oil and gas, not IF.

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