Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘Colorado Energy News’ tag

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

[…]

Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

[…]

“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

[…]

But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
[…]
“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

Colorado’s Green Energy Future

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Having done a bit of work with both of these groups, Fort Zed and Boulder’s Energy Future, I have seen the positive strides that each has already made, and have also seen a bit about the setbacks that have occasionally befallen them.

These set backs can be frustrating, and Mr. Greenlee is right to point out that we need to be skeptical of claims from activists, any activists, but especially those proffering programs that seem to be too good to be true.

In discussions on teaching “Intelligent Design” in the science classroom, a good friend and very intelligent educator made some comments about the differences between science and religion that I adapt here to distinguish between science and activism: In science we start with a question and examine objectively all available evidence to develop our conclusions; activism starts with conclusions and works the other direction.

Activists can often be committed to their projects without having first evaluated the evidence. That idealism and faith can play a big part in pushing past obstacles to reach solutions. But these need to be balanced with practical evaluation of what is possible, beneficial, and as this article points out, profitable, rather than pursued blindly.

All this said, let’s not discount Colorado’s energy efforts just because some aspects have at times been led off track.

Both towns, and especially Boulder, have greater financial resources and political will to pursue these renewable energy goals. As is the case with highly successful companies such as Google, let’s support them as they pave the way for more corporations and municipalities to produce and use more affordable clean, domestic, renewable energy.

Boulder Daily Camera

Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

Greenlee: New energy future?

By Bob Greenlee
Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

There`s a disconnect between Boulder`s concept of energy and environmental idealism that continues to frustrate activists. As the community attempts to resolve achieving its carbonless and sustainable energy goals reality has a nasty habit of revealing a number of inconvenient truths.

A collection of well-meaning citizens make up a group called Boulder`s Energy Future. They`re involved in trying to sort out what comes next as concerns the expired franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and whether or not attempting to “municipalize” the existing electric utility grid makes any sense. Boulder oftentimes suffers from having far too many armchair experts when it comes to making decisions on complex issues whether it involves expanding access to open space lands or carving out our “new energy future.”

Read the entire article here.

Rural Economic Development and Environmental Health: Growing Hand in Hand

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Ahh…, the sweet sounds of economic development and environmental health, each growing hand in hand, as it should be.

Technology and other forms of innovation are making the conjunction of these essential benefits easier and easier to achieve.

This development is not shutting out the most common energy resources, “While renewable energy industries are generating lots of buzz, the traditional sectors of oil and gas are especially booming in Weld,” but is still working on the kinds of renewable energy that will be, hopefully, much more common in coming decades.

As the article below points out, not only is renewable energy creating jobs, it is creating high-paying jobs that will increase prosperity today and encourage greater education for tomorrow, all while improving the US balance of trade and making it easier for us to meet our current energy demands without compromising, but improving the prospects for future generations of Americans to do the same.

Thank you, Weld County, Colorado, for providing the example.

Greeley Tribune

Weld’s economy gets energized

Expanding renewable energy industries join the entrenched oil and gas, which is experiencing a boom of its own

By Chris Casey

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

From the growing exurbs of Frederick and Dacono to the wind-swept prairie along the Wyoming border, Weld County has established itself as an energy hotbed.
The oil and gas industry has been a big player here for decades, accounting for 40 percent or more of Weld’s assessed valuation for at least 17 years, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner. The industry accounts for about 4,000 jobs in Weld and supplies the county just shy of $50 million in property tax revenue annually.
But just as wells go through layer after layer of earth to reach the sweet spot, other energy industries are now stacking up in northeast Colorado: the renewable sectors of solar, wind and biomass.

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

Read the entire article here.

Clean Colorado Energy Gives Us an Economic Edge

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It’s certainly a challenge to balance long term economic health with the need to pay the heating bill this month.We know fossil fuel resources are finite, even if they appear abundant in Colorado today. We also know that they pollute our air in ways much more immediate and tangible than climate change. But if working towards cleaner, renewable, domestically produced energy were going to increase our utility bills drastically in the near term, it’s a tough sell.

Colorado’s economy is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country during this economic downturn and present (we hope) recovery. I am just one of thousands of examples of people who have good jobs working in Colorado’s clean energy sector.

I’m excited by the prospects for Colorado’s economy in the next several decades, due in large part to the competitive edge Colorado has gained in working towards a more renewable, energy-independent economy.

Gov. Ritter provides only vague overviews in the article below, but he’s done plenty to place a solid foundation.

We’ve successfully shown how to utilize of our domestic resources while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns.

By Anna Clark 

Mon Dec 6, 2010 1:00am EST

Anna Clark: During your four years in office, you have signed 57 pieces of energy-related legislation. Did making Colorado a model state for the “new energy economy” come at a price?

Bill Ritter: I would not say it’s come at a price. I’m not anti-business; quite the opposite. Cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing. Creativity, innovation, and commercialization — these should be in 21st century America’s wheelhouse. That’s who we’ve always been as a country. This vision is among the things I am proudest of accomplishing during these past four years.

Read the entire article here.

Colorado Citizens Concerned about Move from Coal to Natural Gas

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Darn, this looked like such a positive move from so many angles, but it’s hard to argue against people who have valid concerns that this move could raise their utility prices or, much worse, threaten their jobs.

The volatility in prices is difficult to control, but is it possible that a slow reduction in coal mining could lead to a smooth retraining for these people into jobs, even within the energy industry, that are safer for Coloradans as well as the people who work in the mines?

These people’s concerns certainly have merit, and I haven’t looked deeply enough into the particulars to offer much insight, but this is a typical example of stakeholders in a somewhat antiquated system fearing change, not because they don’t believe it will be better for all in the long run, but because they fear it will be worse for them in particular in the near future.

If solutions to problems like this one can be found, they could be applied in so many places all over the country in the coming years.

Western Coloradans air concerns on Xcel energy plan

Associated Press
08/30/10 10:00 PM PDT

GRAND JUNCTION, COLO. — Many western Coloradans are urging state regulators to reject moves to switch from coal to natural gas as the fuel to generate electricity.
About 300 people turned out Monday night for a hearing in Grand Junction on a new state law aimed at using natural gas to fuel power plants in efforts to cut power plant emissions. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest producer of electricity, has announced a $1.3 billion plan to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas in Denver and close a coal plant in Boulder.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 1st, 2010 at 8:06 am

Standing at the Crossroads: The Biofuels Industry in Colorado

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One of the more important points in this article is that “the Federal Government should let the marketplace determine who wins this race.” George Bush already laid out the framework in his 2007 update of the Renewable Fuel Standards, and it has just recently been clarified with the EPA’s RFS2 decision.

Under the RFS, the U.S. will need to increase use of renewable fuels, up to 36 billion gallons in 2022. Furthermore, the use of corn ethanol is capped at 15B gallons starting in 2015, meaning that those Colorado companies with the most economically, environmentally, and energetically efficient cellulosic and other advanced bioenergy technologies will have a place in the market.

As for the need for qualified managers with extensive technical understanding of bioenergy, as well as the ability to convey it’s merits to potential buyers and the public, I’m currently in Brazil working in their bioenergy sector, but I’ll be back in Colorado at the beginning of May.

February 1st, 2010

Colorado’s biofuels industry is faring better than elsewhere in the country, thanks to local entrepreneurial spirit, the area’s universities, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) coupled with Governor Ritter’s early leadership in the New Energy Economy. However, bolder and more sustained actions are required if the state’s vision of becoming the cleantech version of Silicon Valley is to be realized. Colorado’s biofuels industry stands very much at a crossroads.

[…]

As an example, consider alternatives to traditional diesel fuel. At last count there were six different feedstock-technology pathways being developed by various companies across the US. How can federal policy makers know with any certainty [which technology] will ultimately win the race for a conventional diesel substitute? Maybe one is better in certain climates and geographies while another elsewhere. The federal government should let the marketplace determine who wins this race. Similar complexity exists for ethanol, butanol and other fuel alternatives.

[…]

Two-thirds of biofuels firms in Colorado believe enhancing the availability/supply of skilled employees is needed to build a robust clean-energy sector in the Front Range. Views vary, however, as to which functional areas (e.g. engineers, sales, technical) are most pressing, but expanding the pool of talented managerial staff emerges as the top priority.

Read the entire article here.