Collaboration creates our new energy future
August 28, 2007
Last fall, Gov. Ritter was swept into office on a platform that included the development of a New Energy Economy with the support from a number of Republicans like myself who shared the governor’s vision of a New Energy Economy. By achieving this vision, we believe we will create untold opportunities in economic development in our state, provide for a positive contribution to the state’s environment and discover new and sustainable opportunities to develop new agricultural markets in a rapidly transitioning economy, one that is being increasingly constrained by water availability. While doing this, we will also position the state to be a major benefactor of emerging carbon markets.Building on the success of Amendment 37, the nation’s first citizen-initiated renewable portfolio standard passed by Colorado voters in 2004, we have in three short years gone from a platform nearly void of renewable energy resources to one of an expanded 20 percent standard and are now looked upon nationally as a leader in this energy revolution. This year we have witnessed the groundbreaking of some of the largest wind farms in America on our northeast plains, the largest concentrated PV plant in our solar-rich San Luis Valley, and the groundbreaking of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia using Colorado technology. The creation of the Colorado Center for Biofuels and Biorefining (C2B2), a collaborative effort between Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Labs will fortify our national leadership in developing the governor’s New Energy Economy.As a lifelong member of the Colorado Republican party, I am dismayed at the tenor of the communications come from the state senate minority office. Last week, an article was released accusing the governor of “assault,” “alienation” and “creating a hostile environment” with the state’s energy industry. The irony of this accusation is twofold: the first is that the charge is being made by a senator whose very eastern Plains district is the benefactor of Gov. Ritter’s policies; the second is the absence of any mention of renewable energy being a component of the state’s energy future.The cast of characters promoting this attack on Gov. Ritter’s policy are ideologically aligned with the same politicos who opposed Amendment 37 in 2004, calling it “bad for Colorado” and “something that could cost taxpayers $2 billion dollars.” They were out of step (and wrong) with the will of Colorado citizens then, and they are out of step now. According to recent testimony by Xcel Energy before the Public Utilities Commission, renewable energy is now saving Colorado rate payers millions annually.Last month, I had the opportunity to be a participant in an energy roundtable in Wyoming sponsored by a major oil company that included a broad range of environmental organizations in the state. I was heartened by the collaboration between the environmentalists and the energy developers; both sides understood they had a lot to gain by working together. Wyoming has created a high standard on how they use the state’s natural resources to benefit its citizens, including a free college education to every graduate of the Wyoming public school system. The stakes are high, and both sides know it – it creates a great demand for accountability.Gov. Ritter was given a clear mandate in the November elections to seek balance in our energy development. Fossil fuel will remain a critical and significant part of our energy economy, but that industry will be continually complemented by growing renewable energy developments in Colorado. The issues that define eastern Colorado natural gas production, one where the industry predominantly works with private landowners on the windswept prairies of the state is vastly different from the issues of places like the Roan Plateau, where the balance between public lands, public input and private development create a much different environment – the operative word in the Roan situation being public.Spinning a policy of accountability and balance into the words “assault, alienation and hostile environment” is no demonstration of leadership on such an important topic. While these Rovian sound bites are no doubt effective in stirring the base of our party, a growing majority in our party are growing weary of this style of leadership and dismiss these tactics as effective in today’s world. I urge my party to rethink their game plan on shaping this debate and join the majority of Colorado voters who support the governor’s approach in building a future of prosperity and equity.Michael Bowman, a fifth-generation Coloradan and former chairman of Gov. Ritter’s Energy Transition Team, participated in the 2004 Amendment 37 campaign. He is chairman of the Colorado Farm to Cafeteria Coalition and a National Steering Committee member of 25×25.
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