How serious are they? Colo. leftists sold out their climate commitments for a paltry $140M

GettyImages 899379028

That the environmental left is relentless is not news, but the current machinations on policies intended to suppress fossil energy production in Colorado are fascinating.

Under a compromise being negotiated between Gov. Jared Polis (D), the state’s oil and gas producers and the environmental left, production fees estimated at $140 million per year (based on future crude oil and natural gas prices) will replace three bills before the legislature and three ballot measures, all of which are attempts to squeeze the oil and gas producers.

Senate Bill 24-159 would have prohibited permits for new oil and gas drilling by the end of 2029. Proponents argued that such a ban was necessary to “counteract climate change” — a silly claim, given that elimination of all Colorado greenhouse gas emissions would reduce global temperatures in 2100 by less than 0.003 degrees Celsius, going by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency climate model. That bill was rejected by the legislature in March, but it remains harmful in terms of incentives for investment in the state. After all, it could come up again.

Senate Bill 24-165, ostensibly about air quality, is really an effort to severely restrict the use of internal combustion vehicles. It would force a wholesale shift to electric vehicles that are fundamentally impractical for Colorado. It would also freeze fossil fuel “preproduction” (drilling, fracking, and flowback) operations for five months of every year in regions that are in nonattainment with current air quality standards. The legislation says, groundlessly, that the fossil production sector is a “key” source of smog, but nowhere is there even an assertion that the five-month shutdown would yield any beneficial impacts to air quality at all.

House Bill 24-1338 would formalize the application of “environmental justice” to emissions policies, including possible limits on various industrial operations, even if those attendant overall emissions are consistent with existing regulatory requirements. The implicit assumption is that air quality should be equal in every neighborhood; but that is preposterous, due to geographic and other factors. It is a sad reality that lower-income households gravitate toward less desirable (and thus less expensive) areas. That is just an implication of being poor.

Here is another reality: Less production of fossil energy means higher prices for energy and most other goods and services. The data are unambiguous that increases in the cost of living yield adverse effects far more serious for lower-income groups than for others. The proposals are incontrovertibly regressive.

House Bill 24-1330, would prohibit permits for fossil production operations in “disproportionately impacted” communities. Amazingly, that term is not defined in the legislation, so any such permits would be subjected to endless litigation, endless delay, and an obvious decline in investment in the production of efficient energy.

The three ballot measures, respectively, would impose strict liability for environmental damages stemming from fossil production, allow anyone to sue to enforce existing regulations, and enshrine a right to a “healthy environment,” whatever that means. Taken as a whole, these are a full-employment act for the lawyers, the massive costs of which will be borne by the fossil producers narrowly, and by the entire Colorado economy more broadly.

Put aside all the lofty rhetoric about climate change and clean air and environmental justice and a “healthy environment.” According to the environmental left, the legislation and the ballot initiatives are needed to protect those values, yet somehow they and their allies in the legislature are willing to forgo all of that in exchange for $140 million per year.

Does this not speak volumes?

In 2022, $16.5 billion in oil and gas production was about 3.4 percent of Colorado’s gross state product. Colorado lawmakers would be wise to examine the longer-term effects of similar policies actually enacted in California, including various “climate” restrictions on fossil energy development and a de facto ban on fracking. Between 1985 and 2022, California crude oil output fell by more than two-thirds, and natural gas output fell by 73 percent.

And for what? No one can claim that the decline in California fossil energy production has had the slightest effect on climate. Suppose Colorado “succeeds” over time in reducing oil and gas output by an amount yielding, say, a 1 percent to 2 percent reduction in the state’s economic output. That would be equivalent to a recession, endured in the pursuit of virtually no environmental improvement at all.

What are these Colorado politicians thinking?

Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top