Editorial: Schwartz offers look forward in Congress
October 25, 2016
We support Gail Schwartz for Congress over Republican incumbent Scott Tipton.
Schwartz, we believe, will seek to actually govern and work with members of both parties, in contrast to members of the current Republican House majority with whom Tipton makes common cause.
Schwartz will work toward a realistic energy policy that recognizes market forces and the business case for renewables, and will strive to represent the full range of interests across the sprawling, diverse district.
Tipton is a sincere elected official, is hardworking and has accomplished more than many members of Congress.
We think Schwartz has exaggerated his position on public lands — we don't find hard evidence that he's in cahoots with those who seek to turn over forest and rangelands en masse to states and private interests. But Tipton does support several steps that would give states more authority over energy development, and that fits with our core concern:
We believe he is too closely aligned with fossil fuel interests to represent the whole of the district and help it move forward economically.
His stiff-arm of a broad-based coalition seeking to protect the Thompson Divide from further natural gas development and his support for pushing the problem to the North Fork illustrates how he sides with old energy over community input.
His coziness with SG Interests, the Texas-based fossil fuel operator that has been his largest campaign contributor, and his attack on Schwartz's work in the Colorado Legislature to boost renewables suggest he rejects the promise that a new energy economy holds for Colorado.
His denial of a human role in climate change stands in the way of steps that could help mitigate its impacts on the state's growing recreation economy.
His advocacy for coal jobs, which is little more than electoral pandering, further shows an embrace of a fading economic paradigm at the expense of exploring sustainable solutions.
Let's step back for a moment on energy, so critical not only in this congressional district, but for the state and the nation.
Before Barack Obama was elected president, the nation had a pretty broad consensus that it was smart to push forward on green energy. Renewable energy isn't some hippie dippy liberal dream. It is good for health and presents tremendous business and innovation opportunities. The Pentagon has sought to decrease the military's reliance on fossil fuels, finding that one of eight casualties in Iraq came from protecting fuel convoys.
John McCain, Obama's 2008 opponent, advocated adding as many as 45 nuclear power plants, which would reduce consumption of coal and oil, and supported market-driven growth of renewable energy sources.
As Texas governor, George W. Bush signed legislation establishing a renewable electricity mandate that led to Texas being the nation's leader in wind energy. As president, Bush, while trimming regulations on coal, approved tax credits for renewable energy and cleared the way for a dramatic expansion of natural gas drilling.
Oddly, we never heard about Coal Killers Bush and McCain — only about Obama's alleged war on coal after Kentucky's Mitch McConnell vowed to make him a one-term president and started to talk to Appalachians the way Tipton is talking to Colorado miners.
It's really the natural gas boom and resultant price drop that undercut coal, not Obama and not Gail Schwartz (or Cory Gardner).
Yet Tipton blames lost coal jobs on Schwartz's support for bills in the Colorado Legislature that increased the requirement for renewable energy and a move in 2010 that "compelled Xcel Energy to convert three of its coal power plants to use natural gas."
Tipton, in the Legislature at the time, opposed the Xcel bill. But Gardner, now a U.S. senator, joined several other Republicans in supporting it.
Then-Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, among the Republican backers, told the Denver Post last month that a big driver of the decision was the low price of natural gas.
"The fight was so painful here because we were at the forefront of that change, the shifting economics," Penry said.
Two notable things happened on this bill six years ago: Schwartz worked with Republicans, and both sides forged a majority that recognized changing economics.
So the cleaner-burning natural gas that Tipton so strongly supports undercut coal, but he now seeks to blame legislation supported by many of his fellow Republicans.
We do understand that the loss of coal jobs that pay well is a serious issue. At the same time, we do not believe those jobs should be preserved in favor of our health and further climate damage.
The nation needs a real policy to help displaced workers, not a call to preserve jobs that are losing out in the marketplace. As journalists whose industry has suffered for a generation, we fully grasp that this is not a theoretical issue.
We believe that legislators who think like Schwartz, who found a way to finance some of the work needed to repair Colorado's crumbling schools through the BEST program she sponsored and is helping rebuild Glenwood Springs Elementary, will seek practical solutions more so than legislators who think like Tipton.
Re-electing Scott Tipton won't save a single coal job, nor will it lead to real compromise on issues such as Thompson Divide drilling, nor will it lead to creative economic solutions.
Electing Gail Schwartz gives us a chance to seek middle ground and move ahead.