We must address the difficult challenge of balancing the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry with our legitimate concerns about the environment, keeping in mind that there will be no economy if the environment collapses. Our children and grandchildren deserve clean air and water. Ultimately, we will have to answer to them for our stewardship of our natural resources, or the lack thereof.
We must also address the very real issue of climate change, including the national security implications of a changing global climate.
Simply put, we must protect our planet and the environment. My plan includes effective regulation; conservation programs to protect our air, water, and other limited natural resources; and the development of wind, solar, and other sustainable energy sources. We will need to train people for the new jobs that will be created during this process.
Gas and oil production are important to our economy. However, oil and gas are economically volatile and are subject to forces that are beyond the reach of Colorado or even the United States. Oil rigs are stopped and jobs are put on hold when world oil prices drop below a certain level. An oil company is big enough to withstand a production slowdown. But for the men and women who work on the oil rigs or in other capacities, overproduction and shutdowns mean a lost paycheck. It may even mean the end of a job. When workers lose paychecks, communities die.
Gas and oil production come with a heavy environmental price, including ground water contamination, gas leaks, and a higher risk for earthquakes. We must ask ourselves whether the temporary benefits of fracking are worth the risks. Currently, such questions are not even allowed to be asked. We are expected to take the word of the oil industry that all of this is safe and necessary. Energy companies donate millions of dollars to political campaigns to make sure that they have the final say on energy policy. We need a Congressman who will allow us to ask questions and who will provide honest answers.
Other nations are moving ahead with green energy technologies. Meanwhile, in Southeastern Colorado, we are still paying for a coal plant that has never worked and never will. Imagine what we could accomplish if our politicians were as committed to producing clean energy as they are to drilling for oil or mining for coal.
Sustainable energy means a more sustainable economy, free from the volatility of the global oil market. If our goal really is energy independence, then we must move away from fossil fuels and towards the freedom of green energy. This process will take time, and oil and gas will continue to be a part of the energy mix for Colorado during the long transition. But we must move towards an energy policy that is economically and environmentally sustainable.