Colorado’s diverse energy resources are bountiful and their development is a crucial issue for many voters here. But the presidential campaigns haven’t made energy a centerpiece of their campaigns in the state.
With rare exceptions tailored for specific campaign stops, other topics have taken precedence over energy: The economy, job creation, and, occasionally, women’s issues are driving the conversation about who will be president in 2013.
“The American public has yet to really make the link between energy and the economy in their own collective mind,” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote in his new book, the Gospel According to the Fix. “Though very few politicians are talking about it, there’s actually good news on the energy front; domestic oil output is the highest it has been since the early 2000s, and the country is producing natural gas like gangbusters.”
Although there is tension between renewable energy and fossil fuel workers in Colorado, avoiding the topic altogether means neglecting a huge sector of the state’s economy and a significant voting demographic.
The middle ground Colorado has found in energy resources is working, and turning a deaf ear to that could hurt the presidential hopefuls in the western swing state.
Crude oil production rose a whopping 64 percent from 2007 to 2011, and natural gas production rose 27 percent in Colorado. In 2011, 66 percent of the state’s electricity was generated by coal, 20 percent by natural gas, and 14 percent by renewable resources like wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
At the same time, jobs have been created in the energy sector and the state has scaled back its carbon footprint.
“Colorado voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible,” wrote Lori Weigel and Dave Metz in their study on Coloradans’ feelings toward safeguarding national parks in contrast to the expanding energy field.
While more than one-third of Colorado’s 100,000 square miles are national park lands, much of the rest of the state isstocked with energy resources. The United States Dept. of the Interior last week announced that Colorado will be one of six states to participate in a solar energy project that will “advance the renewable energy platform across the country,” reported 5280.
And yet, the subject of energy isn’t prevalent in the onslaught of political television ads airing in Colorado.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R) hails from and represents Colorado’s most agricultural and natural-resource-driven area: the eastern plains. He supports the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) as well as retaining and tapping the other natural resources abundant in his district: oil and gas.
“We can develop our resources in a way that actually makes our environment even stronger tomorrow than it is today and that’s important to the people of Colorado,” Gardner said July 26 during a Google+ Hangout hosted by Fix blogger Aaron Blake, alluding to the state’s conservation ethic.
“I think Mitt Romney is a strong supporter of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy,” Gardner said. “Romney understands the importance of utilizing our resources in a responsible way.”
Romney’s energy plan includes stripping carbon dioxide from the Clean Air Act’s purview and increasing energy production in America by opening unprotected energy reserves for development, aiming to create jobs in places like eastern Colorado.
Romney did stake a position on wind energy last week, saying he would let the wind energy tax credit expire if elected. It would affect about 5,000 jobs in Colorado according to the Denver Post.
Romney will be in Golden, Colo., for a campaign event on Thursday. Golden is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which specializes in wind energy production.
Like Romney, President Obama hasn’t focused on energy in his campaign discourse thus far, despite multiple pages of plans on his Web site dedicated to the president’s “all-of-the-above” strategy. Obama did say that he would extend the wind energy tax credit.