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Opinion: Fracking — facts & fiction

Ken Johnson
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Free Press Opinion Columnist

There’s that new “F” word again — fracking.

Oh, the horror of it all.

Instead of competing ballot questions, Gov. John Hickenlooper gets to appoint an 18-member “Blue Ribbon” committee to wrestle with the question: What should Colorado do about fracking?

So for 2014, us voters won’t have to get educated about oil and gas production in Colorado (and the nation, of course).

Competing ballot initiatives, all withdrawn for this year, tried to pre-empt legislature with new citizen rules against fracking. A counter proposal, also withdrawn, would penalize communities if they limit fracking; they wouldn’t get any more oil/gas severance money.

These all amount to a silly way to govern the state, given that the consequences of most “initiatives” are self-inflicted wounds. Some of us call this “go get signatures and put it on the ballot” the California virus. But that’s a different story given that “fracking” is being attacked all over the country.

Without doubt one of the worst anti-fracking proposals was our own whack-job constitutional amendment that didn’t get enough signatures; you can bet it will be back for another election in the future. It said Coloradans are entitled to clean air, clean water and scenic values, whatever that means, and it banned fracking totally. The language banned drilling totally, too, as a side benefit.

It was one of those insulting ideas pushed by folks with one agenda; end the days of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Go Green. Period.

Even places where there is no oil or gas, and no geology that would host them, there are ballot proposals to ban fracking as something worse than radiation.

That’s the problem when people come to believe the sky is falling and we must save Mother Earth right now!

MY THOUGHTS

1. If we had a national priority and limitless money, we still need a fossil fuel “bridge” for 25 or more years. Banning all “clean” energy can’t happen overnight. It happens one year at a time, and over a long time.

2. The only really “clean” energy is nuclear. And, much like the national shouting match over fracking, we’ve scared ourselves out of nuclear by saying “radiation.”

3. Oil and gas production in Colorado is a big business. It has been for years. But we only produce about 30 percent of the gasoline we use. Hmmm.

4. Fracking has a long history in Colorado (which is either ignored or re-cast as a terrible polluter and killer). It has been around for over 65 years, and in Colorado used extensively since 1969. That’s 45 years — and our water hasn’t been polluted yet. Hmmm again.

So take your pick. Deal with facts, or deal with emotions and worries. They’re polar opposites with the easier path the imaginary one, thanks to the ease of getting folks to sign anything that sounds like a good idea.

Here’s a brief history; you can look it up yourself by going to Wikipedia.

Naturally seeping oil was found by settlers in Colorado as far back as 1876. In 1901 the first recorded oil well was drilled in the Pierre Shale formation. Massive fracking occurred in the Watternberg Gas Field beginning in 1973, and was one of the first large-scale fracking operations. If you don’t want to look it up, Watternberg is near Denver. It’s huge.

The Green Gangsters just got handed a major setback, too, from the courts.

Five towns had earlier banned fracking within the town boundaries … despite the fact there was no drilling there anyway. The towns are Longmont, Fort Collins, Boulder, Broomfield and Lafayette.

Now two different courts have said “no deal.” The state has the say-so on drilling in Colorado. Period.

Ah well, back to politics: Now that the anti-fracking and no drilling ballot measures have been dropped, the governor is appointing his 18-person commission to tackle all the issues.

They will be expected to have answers for the next legislature.

GJ Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.


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