If anyone was around here in Colorado over the summer– or any state that has ballot initiatives – you would have noticed the petitioners around town asking for your signature to support a policy so it can be made for all voters to decide on in the November election.
One of the major issues that was put forward late this summer was Initiative 75 and 78 which were both issues involving fracking; the increasingly sensitive and rising topic, especially here in Colorado, that involves drilling for natural gas. Neither of these initiatives qualified for this coming election, but nonetheless fracking and other natural resource issues will be extremely important issues over the next several years and in future elections.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been developing heavily in Colorado over the last few years. As companies have been developing more sites, more research has looked into fracking and the dangers of pollution in the surrounding areas of the fracking sites. And while it supports the general economy, and Colorado’s in particular, many studies have shown consequences like water contamination, health issues with young children, radon emissions . The process also consumes a large amount of water, and has been found by the USGS to cause some earthquakes.
In fact, many municipalities already have. Cities like our own Fort Collins, Longmont, and Greeley, have all attempted to either prohibit or ban fracking within their city limits. However, a Colorado Supreme Court ruling abolished these laws, citing that cities did not have these rights. Initiative 78 specifically dealt with a city’s right to prevent fracking from entering the community.
While the Court may have had their reasons for citing these policies unconstitutional, I would argue the present danger from fracking is significant enough to award a second look at these operations.
Natural gas does awards many benefits compared to the current oil and coal funded energy system, there is certainly no doubt about that. It burns cleanly, combating the issue of greenhouse gases and emissions in our atmosphere. Additionally, there is a lot of natural gas here in the United States, which means a boost for the local economy and lowers the interest and need to import oil. However, while these are seen as improvements from oil, there are several other alternatives that could meet all the same benefits that natural gas has.
Renewable sources like solar, wind, nuclear, and countless others that are being explored and innovated at universities and other research institutes, all would build jobs locally and create an incredible amount of opportunity if they were to be more heavily implemented around the country. Not to mention, these renewable sources are just as clean, if not more, than natural gas.
These renewable sources become important when discussing Colorado’s energy future. While fracking is becoming such a large presence here, it is important to keep in mind that this does not have to be our destiny. There are several other options that are far less damaging to the environment and those living in it, and can provide the same, if not more, opportunities for jobs, education, and research. We just have to open the door for these technologies to more widely available.
Right now, that door is being blocked by major oil and gas companies who are spending absurd amounts of money to keep initiatives like these off ballots. The visibility of other options is diminished when major companies have more resources to advertise their point of view than their smaller, grassroots opponents.
Fracking may not be on the ballot this year, but considering the consequences, and the other benefits that could come from embracing more renewable resources, it is important that it remains paramount in our conversations on local politics, even without an election year.