Energy sabotage costs Colorado jobs, blue-collar votes
Election postmortems often mention how blue-collar Democrats abandoned their party in big numbers, tipping the race toward President-elect Donald Trump. But only rarely do writers link these politically damaging defections to the party’s job-killing energy attitudes.
Democrats still posture as defenders of the working class, but many in the working class no longer feel that way, judging from the election results. And it’s not hard to see why. Working-class Democrats have good reason to be wary, given how often they’ve been thrown under the bus, or treated as “acceptable losses,” when the party goes to war against “warming.” The pattern of callous indifference to the climate crusade’s human costs became too obvious to ignore during the Obama years, pushing these folks into Republican ranks.
During these years, Democrats launched a three-pronged attack on coal communities, using vilification, litigation and regulation to destroy the market for abundant and affordable fuel. In another pander to the climate lobby — which now takes the outlandish position that all carbon fuels should be “left in the ground” — the president derailed two major pipeline projects: Keystone XL and Dakota Access.
The pattern of knee-jerk naysaying hit closer to home two weeks ago, when Obama’s three appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected approval of an Oregon natural gas terminal, called Jordan Cove, through which Colorado could export surplus energy via an existing pipeline. FERC appointees peered deep into a crystal ball and concluded, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that there wasn’t enough foreign demand for U.S. natural gas to justify the terminal.
Jordan Cove is more than just a potential jobs generator for Western Colorado; it also potentially benefits all Coloradans by pumping more severance tax revenue into local and state coffers, closing budget holes that opened during the energy slump. A promising economic and fiscal lifeline for the state was thus summarily snuffed out, all so the president and the leaders of his climate-obsessed party can pat themselves on the back as “protectors of the planet.”
It’s true that Jordan Cove enjoyed some “bipartisan support.” Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., backed the project, as have a few other Democrats in states that stood to benefit. But a simple resolution of support for Jordan Cove, brought before the Colorado General Assembly last session, garnered a distressing number of “no” votes from Colorado Senate Democrats on its way to passage. Floor debate made it clear that liberal objections had nothing to do with export markets, and everything to do with — what else? — “climate change.”
Then, in a highly irregular move, the resolution was sent by House Democrats to a so-called “kill committee,” which didn’t quite get the job done thanks to one Democrat who wisely voted “yes.” House leaders let the clock run out on the 2016 session without bringing the bill to the floor, effectively sabotaging Colorado’s statement of support.
Could that glaring act of ambivalence have strengthened the hand of FERC appointees already inclined to kill the project? It’s impossible to say for sure. But it certainly didn’t help Colorado’s cause.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good: The swearing-in of a new president, with a dramatically different outlook and approach, offers the promise of a major “reset” in how energy issues are handled by Washington — which also means the last word hasn’t been heard on Jordan Cove.
FERC’s ruling came after Senate President-elect Kevin Grantham announced the creation of a new Senate Select Committee on Energy and Environment, which I’m honored to chair. But it’s exactly the kind of issue I want the committee to tackle, given our ability to take a more in-depth look at the wide variety of energy and environmental issues confronting the state.
So don’t be surprised if this outrageous act of energy infrastructure sabotage becomes the focus of a hearing or two in the coming session.