Policy: Environment & Energy

Fracking debate may decide Colorado elections in 2014

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“You know, slavery had a lot of economic benefits, but it had an ethical problem.” That was anti-fracking activist Weston Wilson on Monday pushing a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Colorado by asserting that oil and gas development is equivalent to slavery.

Such vitriolic ideology is intensifying as politics in swing-state Colorado ramps up to this year’s midterm elections. Politico Magazine headlined a report, “How Fracking Could Break Colorado Democrats.”

Party loyalty is rapidly dissolving in the acid of anti-fracking ballot initiatives funded by Colorado’s outspoken billionaire Rep. Jared Polis and outside Big Green money, both targeting the state’s $29 billion annual petroleum industry.

Activists who successfully passed fracking bans in several Colorado cities have turned on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall — whose reelection results could determine control of the Senate — because he positioned himself as “a champion of Colorado's natural gas industry” in a move to expand a foreign aid package moving through the Senate to allow more liquid natural gas exports.

In a phone conversation, I asked Denver-based independent political pollster Floyd Ciruli about Udall’s situation. He said the arrival of Republican Rep. Cory Gardner into the Senate race against Udall was a game-changer. “Gardner is running only two points behind Udall now, and this is going to be a huge battle — and so is the cluster of Jared Polis initiatives.”

I came away with the impression that this is the “Fracking Election.”

What’s really at stake here? I asked Simon Lomax, western director of Energy In Depth, a program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. He pointed out in an email the central fact nobody’s talking about: “You cannot produce oil or natural gas in Colorado without hydraulic fracturing, and that’s been the case for decades.”

Detailed estimates how much Colorado drilling requires fracking technology range in the high 90th percentile. But for all practical purposes, the proposed ban on fracking is, as Lomax says, really a ban on all oil and natural gas production in the state.

And that’s exactly what Colorado’s treacherous far-left greenies want: for the public to believe that their initiatives simply let communities decide whether to allow drilling in their neighborhood. They’re deliberately and effectively misleading voters: “local control” is a concept that polls high — above 60 percent.

Michael Sandoval, investigative reporter with Denver’s Independence Institute, obtained proof of that assertion: the audio of a national anti-fracking strategy conference call dubbed “Join the Call to Ban Fracking.” The call was convened by Americans Against Fracking and included remarks by Local Control Colorado activist Kaye Fissinger plainly stating activists are looking to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state, despite public protestations that this is not the case.

I spoke to Sandoval by phone. His piece is damning in the extreme and indicates that dirty politics is all the public can expect from their campaign.

Who is this Americans Against Fracking? Its website says it’s a coalition of 27 groups, many of which were involved in a false oil spill campaign during last year’s floods and previously exposed in this space. AAF’s four-member “advisory board” includes Josh “Gasland” Fox and movie actor Mark Ruffalo, both visible in the climate catastrophist lineup.

Among the usual suspects are Center for Biological Diversity ($7.11 million 2012 revenue), Food & Water Watch ($11.4 million), Friends of the Earth ($6.1 million), Greenpeace USA ($32.7 million), MoveOn.org ($4.2 million), Waterkeeper Alliance ($4.4 million), and Rainforest Action Network ($3.7 million).

Less stellar lights in the AAF firmament include Green Faith ($502,734), Justice through Music ($301,396), and Oil Change International ($775,785). The rest were not listed in Guidestar’s database. None of them was based in Colorado.

What does this all mean for the midterm election? I asked Rob Witwer, co-author of “The Blueprint: How the Democrats won Colorado,” what he saw developing. In a long and rambling phone conversation, he said, “The progressive infrastructure is still strong and the conservative infrastructure is catching up.”

Witwer is not impressed with the pro-oil and gas TV ads burgeoning across the state, likening them to relics from the last century that viewers will skip with TiVo or just tune out. On the other hand, he is very impressed with Gardner.

“Gardner is affable, has a great sense of humor and pleasant demeanor which shouldn’t be taken lightly — he possesses a sharp, incisive policy mind that makes him that political rarity, the Happy Warrior. He is a game changer. And not just for this election cycle.”

Witwer spent nearly an hour on the secret that Republicans need to use in order to win, which we will explore in this space next week.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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