I gleefully watched President Obama's inaugural speech. My readers probably won't be surprised to learn that the one moment when I actually cheered out loud, causing my excitable dog to bark his head off in response, was when the president mentioned climate change.
Despite all of the money flowing into colleges and universities to produce studies that deny climate change has anything to do with human causes, reality is finally rearing its head in the fantasy world of pro-oil and gas political operatives.
In the past year, we've seen professors and department heads resign from American universities for agreeing to publish biased information. The first university caught in this flagrant disregard for truth and science was the University of Texas.
"Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in the Shale Gas Development" was released by that university's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, claiming that there was no relationship between water contamination and fracking in gas fields. A watchdog group discovered that Professor Chip Groat sat on the board of a drilling company while directing the study.
Thanks to the Public Accountability Initiative, UT decided to initiate an independent review of the study, which revealed conflicts of interest, plus many more errors. The result was Raymond Orbach, head of the UT Austin Energy Institute, lost his job. Groat retired from UT, a wealthy man, thanks to industry. But wait! There's more: Groat is moving on to frying bigger fish as president of The Water Institute of the Gulf.
A similar story came out of the State University of New York. A fracking study hyped as being true to science resulted in a university research institute being shut down two months after it opened. Why? Its only report ("Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling") was ridiculed when it was discovered that whole sections had been cut and pasted from an industry report and that its claim of being peer reviewed was false.
Just this week Corp Watch, another watchdog group, published a report titled, "Frackademia: How the Fracking Industry Tries To Bully Or Buy Scientists." Corp Watch, relying on data obtained in an Associated Press investigation, detailed how industry bullied the EPA to back off of water studies in Texas and Wyoming. According to the Associated Press, drilling company Range Resources told the EPA "so long as the agency continued to pursue a 'scientifically baseless' action'," Range Resources would refuse to cooperate with a national fracking study and "would not allow government scientists onto its drilling sites."
Unfortunately, State Rep. Ray Scott doesn't know about these studies, and by extension much of the talking points of industry, being ridiculed. One week ago he introduced a bill in Denver that would encourage drilling in Colorado by providing a two-year moratorium on severance taxes on new wells. His theory, as reported by Charles Ashby of the Sentinel, is that jobs will be created locally and in the end education will benefit as future severance taxes will be directed there.
The theory is wrong on many levels. First, the bill could, in fact, spur drilling, but most of it would be where it is currently booming - in Weld County, not Mesa County. Of course, since Scott's company is currently working on the Front Range, and he spent more time in Weld County during the most recent election than he did in Mesa County, that should not bother him. His pockets get filled even if the new drilling does not happen in the district he represents.
Scott, in discussing his bill, claims that the oil and gas industry is the largest industry in the state. The facts are different. According to Colorado's official website, our key industries are Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Bioscience, Creative Industries, Defense and Homeland Security, Electronics, Energy and Natural Resources, Financial Services, Food and Agriculture, Health and Wellness, Infrastructure Engineering, Technology and Information, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation, and Transportation and Logistics.
Energy and Natural Resources is on this list, but it includes "solar, wind, biofuels, natural gas, oil and coal." According to the Colorado Data Book, the services industry contributes $58.9 billion to Colorado's economy annually, while mining, which includes oil and gas contributes $12 billion.
Ray Scott, you need to get a clue.
Claudette Konola wants her representative to legislate based on actual reality, not industry fantasy. She blogs at www.Konola4Colorado and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.