It's no secret that Colorado is an energy rich state. From traditional sources of energy like coal and gas to renewable options like solar and wind power, Colorado seems to be on the cutting edge of an all-inclusive energy portfolio. And when it comes to presidential politics, KRCC's Katherine-Claire O’Connor reports the candidates’ energy policies are closely tied to the economy.
Near the base of the Rocky Mountains, Dave Neumann’s workshop is a din of activity. Laser operators, welders, and machinists work to produce a tool that aims to help mitigate pollution from traditional energy factories. Neumann is the CEO of Neumannsystems Group. He says Colorado should focus more on innovations rather than production and that the upcoming presidential election won’t make much of a difference when it comes to the growth of the state’s industry.
The economics of all this and the size of our deficit, the trade balance, all of those things I’m talking about are going to force either administration to converge on a somewhat similar set of policies relative to energy.
While both President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney say they support all energy sources, Gov. Romney talks mostly about traditional avenues, while Mr. Obama focuses on so-called clean energy. Colorado’s vast energy portfolio has been expanding to include new-comers like wind and other renewables. And for people like David Amster-Olszweski, that’s a good thing. He founded the Colorado Springs-based company Sun Share, which offers people and businesses the chance to lease off-site solar panels. Amster-Olszweski says small companies like his open up an array of options to help change the way people look at energy.
It needs to be updated. It’s just like talking to somebody who’s using a typewriter and convincing them that they need a computer. Well it’s a completely different framework. You can access so many more things you’re not just typing. So you have to explain to them all the new benefits that you’re bringing. And solar energy and wind and geothermal and hydro have those different type of benefits.
Wind farms like the Limon Wind Energy Center currently under construction, help contribute to the state’s growing scope of energy. Walking around Limon, Jessie Puga says that goes hand in hand with the state’s economy.
The biggest issue is that we care about jobs in Colorado. What we need to do is not just develop oil and shale and those kind of things that can help keep the costs down, but we need to look to the future to developing solar and wind and things like that.
Continued development and innovation are exactly what Tracee Bently says would be good for the state. She’s the policy director for the Governor’s Energy Office. Bently says when it comes to presidential politics, it’s more than just adopting an "all of the above" policy.
You hear both of them talk about "we like it all, we need wind and solar gas and oil," but it seems like they stop there. It would be nice to hear them go on and talk about innovation, saying, ok, while we have this right now here is what we would like to see in the future and here is the technology package that will get us there. I think that will excited more people.
And that’s why for David Amster-Olszweski, it makes sense the Obama Administration took a chance on a company like the now defunct Solyndra. But Laramie Energy II CEO Bob Boswell says the Obama Administration has played a direct role in a significant drop in the number of leases on federal land he’s been able to obtain for oil and gas wells. Boswell says that drop is industry wide. Statistics from the Bureau of Land Management show during 2005 to 2010 the number of new leases awarded dropped nearly fifty percent. And although they don’t attribute a cause, during that same time frame the BLM says approval for wells went from a 157 to a 307-day process on average. Those types of numbers concern Boswell.
So they’ve really slowed down the business and that’s our employment. I think in Colorado our energy industry supports some 165 thousand jobs and so when you reduce the level of leases that has an immediate impact on employment.
That 165,000 fluctuates depending on who you ask and the use of differing criteria. Boswell calls his upcoming vote a no-brainer because of the rigorous regulations and leasing issues he says are holding his company back. Romney says he will remove that kind of red tape and open up more federal land for drilling exploration. Meanwhile, president Obama says under his watch, wind and solar-generated electricity has doubled, progress he expects to continue. Either way, Vice President of Neumannsystems Group Rob Fridel says since Colorado has such a wealth of energy opportunities, taking advantage of the entire situation is one key to continued success.
The solutions are not just bipartisan, but they have to be international as well. So the technologies have to be economical enough and clean enough that we can all develop our economies, maintain our standard of living, and not pollute the earth in a way that makes it unlivable. I think everybody can agree on that.
The Governor’s Energy Office says over 77,000 people are employed in the state’s energy industry. And although they don’t make any projections, a survey the organization is conducting shows at least two-dozen of the companies assessed plan to hire more people this year.