Colorado Politics: THE PODIUM | Don't copy California's energy blunder

Back in the 1970s, as Colorado began to grow, there was a popular bumper sticker here that read: Don’t Californicate Colorado. At the time, it was about haphazard growth and the problems that come along with it.

Today, it could very well mean not imposing on our state those high tax and overreaching regulatory schemes that are causing many to flee California.

When it comes to our energy policy, my fellow state lawmakers and our state regulators would be wise to look internally for answers, and not at California, as they sometimes do with national environmental groups pushing California policies.

No other U.S. state has spent more money or issued more policies to rid itself of oil and natural gas than California. But it’s not working, and everyday Californians are paying the price.

Gov. Gavin Newsome recently spoke to the state’s ineffective strategy, noting that oil production in California has declined 60 percent since 1985, but the state has seen only a 4.4 percent decrease in demand. He said, “we’re making up for a lack of domestic production from Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Colombia, and that’s hardly an environmental solution when you look globally.”

Nearly 75 percent of the state’s energy consumption comes from oil and gas, roughly 45 percent and 30 percent respectively. That’s higher than the 68 percent of the nation’s energy consumption that derives from oil and gas, or 37 percent and 31 percent respectively.

It's mind boggling that California has become increasingly dependent on imports, even though sizeable, local oil and natural gas resources exist. Even more confounding is when a stubborn commitment to a failed energy strategy translates into lives lost.

Last summer we saw millions of California residents suffer through rolling blackouts due to insufficient power supplies. Even though we live in a period of energy abundance, there was no electricity available to simply run an air conditioner, and sadly, people died of heat exhaustion.

Leaders within the California Independent System Operator blamed officials at the state PUC for not lining up adequate power. While renewables certainly have a role to play in a successful and diverse power generation strategy, policies to prematurely shut down natural gas plants and shutter carbon-free nuclear facilities to pursue a narrow all-renewables future are incredibly shortsighted.

Last August, as California’s growing number of solar installations reduced their power generation as the sun lowered toward the horizon, temperatures remained high. So too did the demand for air conditioning. When the power began to shut off, people suffered the consequences.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In Colorado, we have all the energy we need right here, and oil and natural gas companies have made significant strides reducing their CO2 and methane emissions.

Today, some of the cleanest oil and natural gas molecules in the world are being produced from local resources lying at the foot of our Rocky Mountains. Policies that encourage innovation, and support diverse and responsible energy production, improve our collective resiliency as we aim to do what is right for both our environment and its people.

When it comes to keeping the lights on, protecting lives and protecting our environment, our coastal brethren might benefit from looking to their Rocky Mountain neighbors and rethinking their energy future.

Let’s let Colorado lead the way.

Dan Woog, a Republican from Erie, represents District 63 in the Colorado House.

Feb 17, 2021

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