Representative Jared Polis, a known critic of the oil and gas industry, surprised attendees at a recent luncheon by expressing optimism about Colorado’s energy sector.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Polis’s positive outlook contrasted with his previous efforts to impede oil and gas development.
The unexpected comments may stem from his perception that Colorado is well-positioned in the energy market, possibly due to advancements in renewable energy or other factors aligning with his vision for the state’s energy future.
It remains to be seen whether Polis will elaborate on his statements in future discussions, providing more insight into his perspective.
Peter Moore, chairman of Vital for Colorado, a coalition of state business leaders focused on energy policy, said, “These comments are promising, given the Congressman’s history of supporting anti-oil and gas ballot measures. We look forward to hearing more details from him.”
“But one thing we know for sure: When Congressman Polis is distancing himself from national anti-fracking groups, you know how isolated those groups have become in Colorado’s energy debate,” Moore said.
Polis’ comments to CACI last Wednesday contrast sharply with a press conference he held in 2011 with members of the Americans Against Fracking advisory board, celebrity anti-fracking activists Josh Fox and Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo. The activists were demanding an “immediate moratorium” on oil and gas production.
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In 2013, Polis called the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) “un-American” for its defense of state preemption in oil and gas regulation. Yet the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed COGA’s position on state regulations trumping local fracking ordinances in 2016, calling the municipal bans “invalid and unenforceable.”
Polis’s tone was far more conciliatory at the recent event.
“We have a robust energy sector in Colorado, oil and gas, solar, wind,” said Polis, including “the next generation of and future advances in oil and gas extraction, as well as renewable energy,” he continued, adding that the state is a leader in energy-related research.
The Democratic congressman’s apparent transformation on positive contributions from oil and gas conflicts with comments he made as recently as June when he said, “fossil fuel is a dead end for America.”
Continuing along the same lines, Representative Jared Polis initiated his gubernatorial campaign in 2018 with a bold vision: a plan to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
In alignment with this commitment, Polis, along with several House colleagues, introduced the “100 by ’50” Act in July. This legislation aims to propel the entire nation toward achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
The comprehensive bill not only advocates for the cessation of fossil fuel usage but also incorporates measures such as a zero-emissions vehicle standard and the implementation of a carbon tax on transportation, including commercial aviation.
Notably, prominent national anti-fossil fuel organizations like 350.org, League of Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club have expressed their support for this legislative initiative.
In April, Representative Jared Polis joined fellow House members in reintroducing a set of bills designed to create additional hurdles for oil and gas development.
These bills, initially part of a collection known as the “Frack Pack” by House Democrats, aim to increase regulations on the industry. Polis, known for his stance against oil and gas, is also an advocate for a carbon tax.
A connection between Polis and California billionaire Tom Steyer emerged in 2014, with both being described as “kindred spirits” due to their shared anti-oil and gas positions.
Steyer, who supported an anti-fracking ballot measure in California, held discussions with Polis about their shared objectives.
During the same year, Polis endorsed and financially backed statewide ballot measures that sought to increase setbacks and impose additional restrictions on the oil and gas industry.
However, he withdrew these measures after intervention from Colorado’s Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, and other state Democratic colleagues who were concerned that Polis’s efforts could divide the party.
Despite the setback in 2014, Polis remained committed to his anti-oil and gas advocacy, providing financial support for another anti-fracking ballot measure in 2016.
However, Representative Jared Polis struck a more tempered tone during the CACI event. He acknowledged that the state’s progress in energy production and distribution, both within Colorado and to external markets, relies on having robust infrastructure, particularly pipelines.
Polis emphasized the importance of striking a balance between addressing the concerns of residents and ensuring environmental considerations are taken into account.
This nuanced perspective suggests a recognition of the need to reconcile the economic benefits of energy development with the environmental and community impacts, showcasing a more measured approach compared to his previous anti-oil and gas positions.
“When you look at what I think would help increase our productivity and competitiveness here, certainly part of it ties back to the first question: infrastructure,” said Polis. “Certainly, in terms of being able to move oil and gas, the right kind of infrastructure across our state.”
“If we can have better pipeline infrastructure, we can reduce the costs and be more competitive and at the same time reduce some of the surface impacts that we hear about from local homeowners,” Polis said.
During the recent CACI event, Representative Jared Polis did not bring up his current legislative efforts related to increased regulations for oil and gas, a carbon tax, or the 100 percent renewable energy mandate.
Instead, he seemed to focus on a broader perspective of energy markets and suggested an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy for Colorado’s economy.
Polis emphasized his support for renewable energy, combining solar and wind with natural gas.
He highlighted the geophysical advantages of Colorado, especially in Western Colorado, making it conducive to harnessing solar, wind, and natural gas resources.
Moreover, Polis addressed the broader impact of energy development, emphasizing its intersection with other industries in the state.
He pointed out the potential for economic development opportunities arising from the synergy between energy development and various sectors, indicating a more holistic view of the role of energy in Colorado’s overall economic landscape.
This nuanced approach suggests a willingness to consider diverse energy sources and their interconnectedness with economic growth.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to really increase our competitiveness across the board. Because the price of energy plays into the competitiveness of manufacturing in Colorado [and] the cost of agriculture in Colorado,” Polis said.
Representative Jared Polis highlighted the broad impact of the energy sector on various industries, emphasizing the potential competitive advantage for the entire business sector if a stable pricing advantage in energy is maintained in Colorado.
Despite his past criticism of the oil and gas industry, Polis boasts a notable 90 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, indicating a consistent alignment with environmental priorities throughout his political career.
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