It's been an interesting week with regard to energy politics, both statewide and national, and their potential effect on Colorado's energy industry. In the President's State of the Union address, energy issues received short shrift with the exception of a push for the adoption of an energy bill which is anything but an energy policy. Locally, the Bureau of Land Management, the biggest division within the Department of Interior, announced and then suspended a geothermal resource lease auction slated for the Chalk Cliffs area in the Arkansas River valley north of Salida. The state Senate Minority Leader, Republican Josh Penry, issued a peevish statement that chided the Colorado Oil & Gas Association for allowing a Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, to address a reception honoring their incoming president.
President Obama's passing mention of "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country" belies his 10 year federal budget proposal which doesn't mention nuclear power plant construction at all. His statement that energy policy "means making tough decisions on opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development..." doesn't jive with the decision made by Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar from Colorado, to "go slow" and "conduct extensive reviews and thorough examinations" of ALL oil and gas leasing proposals...onshore or offshore. Such policies have already resulted in the canceling of previously issued leases in western Colorado and eastern Utah. Such "extensive reviews" of offshore leasing under the new "guidelines" will virtually assure that no lease auctions will be held in the foreseeable future. New restrictions and regulations placed on oil shale leasing in western Colorado have negatively impacted research and development of this resource that rivals or even exceeds the reserve potential of all the Mid-east oil producing nations combined.
This "go slow" and "extensive review..." process also seems to be affecting another source of clean, renewable energy...geothermal. The BLM recently announced a lease auction for geothermal resource rights in the Chalk Creek area on the western side of the Arkansas River valley near Mt. Princeton in central Colorado. Only a week later, following protests by surface owners, mostly hot springs resort operators in the area, the agency withdrew the offered parcels. The protesters indicated fears that their surface hot springs, and livlihoods, would be negatively impacted by any deep drilling and processing of geothermal waters used to generate electrical power via steam turbines. No announcement was made on when, if ever, a lease auction would be conducted. The area is under "extensive review and evaluation."
And, finally, Josh Penry, the Grand Junction Republican who has been a strong advocate for the state's oil and gas industry, issued a statement admonishing the Colorado Oil & Gas Association for inviting Democratic John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor and candidate for Governor, to address their group. Penry stated, "(Hickenlooper) is no friend of the oil & gas industry..." and went on to say that Hickenlooper supported the newly adopted rules and regulations on the state's oil and gas industry. Republican candidate, Scott McInnis was invited to address the group but declined.
For the most part, Hickenlooper, a geologist who spent considerable time working in the oil and gas industry in Denver before being laid off in one of the periodic industry downturns, has been mostly silent on the new oil and gas regulations. The rules were adopted, over fierce industry opposition, at the behest of lame duck Governor Bill Ritter and the Democrat controlled state assembly. Without question, Hickenlooper would bring a far stronger business and experience background to the Governor's office than Ritter...or for that matter, Republican candidate Scott McInnis. While certainly supporting Colorado's push for "new" energy technology and jobs, Hickenlooper would most likely support a more balanced approach inclusive of the oil and gas industry than Ritter. Hickenlooper has enjoyed a considerable amount of support from Denver based oil and gas operators in his mayoral campaigns.