Last week, the price of oil nudged above $70 per barrel for three days. In years past, that kind of price increase would have economists break out in hives, and US consumers steer clear of stores. Almost miraculously, however, that hasn’t happened.
Exxon on Thursday announced that they would join the growing number of international oil and gas companies to take steps to research and combat the long-term effects of climate change. The move comes just one day after Shell announced a similar initiative to regulate its methane emissions over the next few years.
Yet, for all these undeniably positive strides, oil and gas companies are still decried as the bad guy, even as they take steps to find common ground with anti-energy activists.
Exxon’s ‘Political’ Move
Four years after they were eviscerated in the media for wanting to determine their own path forward, Exxon’s decision to reverse course and join the industry-supported Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is being similarly attacked. This time, critics are accusing Exxon of making the move to earn goodwill among the people.
Few people (willingly) remember that Exxon’s refusal to join the OCGI four years ago wasn’t a refusal to address climate change, it was an attempt to independently assess the most effective strategies for combatting global warming. In other words, Exxon’s decision to join Chevron, BP, Shell, and several others seems less like a politically-motivated about-face and more like the natural result of four years of research and thought.
Shell Doubles Down on Planet Earth
As Exxon takes steps to bolster the OCGI, another member company, Royal Dutch Shell, announced their plan to drastically reduce its methane emissions over the next 7 years. The oil and gas company is shooting to maintain methane emissions below .02 percent of their total assets by the year 2025.
The announcement is the first step in Shell’s mission to cut their carbon emissions in half in the coming decades.
Are We Incapable of Celebrating Positive Change?
When it comes right down to it, there may be nothing oil and gas companies can do to convince people that they’re not working to destroy the planet. That’s too bad. Regardless of the impression you might be given by the media, the oil and gas industry is swiftly becoming the most passionate ally in the quest to curtail climate change.
Exxon’s $100 million annual commitment to the OCGI, for example, brings the fund’s total up to a staggering $1.3 billion. That’s a monetary total that makes a far more convincing statement than those critics complaining about the politics behind the transition.
In the last several weeks, we’ve spilled lots of ink discussing ballot Initiative 97, an anti-fracking ordinance designed to devastate the Colorado oil and gas industry utterly. Unfortunately, as the November election looms nearer, Initiative 97 is coming closer to fruition. Having hurdled the petition process, now initiative 97 is an official part of the ballot in the fall. That means a fancy new name change.
Make no mistake, though, even though 97 is now operating under the new bureaucratic title — proposition 112 — the inner workings of this dangerous legislation have not changed one iota.
Here are the straightforward facts surrounding proposition 112.
If you’re unfamiliar with prop 112, you can read the basics here. Essentially, the legislation aims to increase the mandatory setback for oil and gas projects to an unworkable 2,5000 feet from occupied structures or anywhere deemed a “vulnerable area.”
Proposition 112 By the Numbers
According to a fact sheet released by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the economic impact of Proposition 112 drums up some pretty scary numbers:
The number of jobs lost in the first year after passage. Those are more than just oil and gas jobs, too. Industries across the spectrum would be negatively affected. Thousands of retail, construction, and healthcare jobs could be lost.
The total number of jobs lost by 2030. As much as 77 percent of lost jobs would fall outside the oil and gas industry.
The potential loss of revenue for Colorado’s schools every year. More than 9,000 teaching and government jobs rely on that income.
The annual loss of tax revenue to the state of Colorado, a deficit that translates to higher taxes and less efficient infrastructure.
The damage to Colorado’s state economy every year by 2030.
Personal income lost over the next decade. That’s money out of voters’ wallets.
Those numbers add up to a pretty scary decade for Colorado should prop 112 see the light of day.
Do Your Duty on Election Day
As this economic tremor sets up to rumble through the state, it’s more important than ever to divorce the truth about Proposition 112 from the baseless vitriol spouted by media outlets intent on stirring up controversy. The simple truth is that passage of Prop 112 would decimate the Colorado economy, possibly beyond repair.
Rather than work alongside the oil and gas industry to curb methane emissions (a project the industry itself is taking very seriously), anti-fracking advocates would prefer a shortcut solution that would cause far more havoc than it solved. When the time comes to cast your vote in November, remember to think about your community at large, not the headlines that fill up your social streams.
Vote no on proposition 112.
In late August, President Donald J. Trump announced a “big trade agreement” with our neighbors to the south, Mexico. A major portion of the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement would address issues with the North American Free Trade Agreement, such as the “sunset clause.”
Last week at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual Energy Summit, both Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis addressed their positions about Colorado’s current and future energy policy. Despite three disruptions from protesters, who were eventually escorted out of the event, Polis laughed off the situation and discussed his vague plans for the Rocky Mountain State while Stapleton focused on the numbers. Continue reading
When Donald Trump led the United States out of the Paris climate agreement last June, he was lambasted by the left for putting the national and global environment in peril. A little over a year later, however, it would appear that the numbers are skewing the other direction.
The U.S.A. Is #1
Over the course of 2017, the United States economy grew by three percent. Specifically, the oil and gas sector ramped up production after a multi-year slump. The red alerts splashed across the front page, and the (apparent) crowds of protestors clustering around drilling and fracking projects might have you thinking that this growth is also triggering a huge jump in hazardous pollution.
If that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong. Over the course of 2017, the United States reduced the emissions of carbon gas by half a percent. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a massive drop in the output of pollution.
It’s not a fluke, either. Since 2005, the United States has reduced carbon emissions by an astonishing 758 million metric tons. To put that in perspective, America eliminated nearly as much carbon emissions as the entire European Union (770 million metric tons in reduced carbon emissions).
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Planet …
Let’s speak plainly: every single one of the countries who entered the Paris Accord has failed to meet their goal for reduced carbon emissions. In fact, only 5 of the nations — Luxembourg, Netherlands, France, Portugal, and Sweden — have come within 50 percent of their planned goals.
The worst offenders are China and India, manufacturing nations who are pumping 10 tons of greenhouse gas for every ton that the United States eliminates.
The Solution Is Action, Not Signatures
When it comes down to it, exiting the Paris climate agreement didn’t really change the course charted a decade ago by corporations operating in the United States. Motivated not by federal regulation, but a sense of community, America’s companies have reduced carbon emissions of their own accord.
The numbers will tell you that no amount of government posturing can fix the environment. It doesn’t take regulation, it takes a collective desire to change.
During the reign of the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea was considered a natural border, evenly divided by Russia and Iran. In the years following the fall of the Soviet Union, however, the Caspian found itself straddled by five new countries. For decades, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan have vigorously disputed ownership of the land-locked sea. On Sunday, however, the nations took their first step toward a peaceful distribution of the Caspian’s vast natural resources signing the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.
The landmark agreement boils down to a mathematical formula that will divide the seabed of the Caspian between the five nations while retaining the surface of the sea as international water.
The Caspian’s Impact on Oil and Gas
First and foremost, the Caspian Sea deal creates a new avenue for the flow of oil and gas back and forth between Europe and Asia. Several Caspian nations have begun work on pipelines that will swiftly carry extracted oil and natural gas east and west. This development has the potential to expose a lot more customers to Russia and the Central Asian energy market.
The Caspian Sea deal is also significant because it brings with it the possibility of massive oil reserves finally seeing the light of day. Estimates put the Caspian Sea’s resources around “48 billion barrels of oil and 8.7 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven or probable reserves.”
Those vast reserves paired with the multiple pipelines under construction could turn the Caspian Sea into an oil and gas powerhouse.
It’ll Still Take Time to Get Things Fully Sorted Out
If all of that sounds like enough to make US oil and gas producers nervous, it shouldn’t (yet). Consider that the basic idea for the Caspian Sea deal took twenty years to get this far. There’s still plenty of bickering to come as all five nations work out the results of the formula. From there, it will take years to establish a working infrastructure in the region. That’s to say nothing of the expert finagling that will be required to sort out a long-term deal.
In five years time, the Caspian Sea may well have transformed into a noteworthy destination on the oil and gas landscape. For the moment, though, there’s still plenty of ground to cover.
Over the last several weeks, anti-fracking protestors from around the country have flocked to Colorado to gather signatures for controversial ballot Initiative 97. Much to the dismay of the state’s energy sector, it appears as though the activists may have won a significant victory in the fight to turn Initiative 97 in the law of the land.
But hope isn’t lost just yet.
The Aforementioned Victory
To turn an initiative into a measure, supporters of the legislation need to gather 98,492 verified signatures. Initial estimates indicate that proponents of Initiative 97 handed over 170,000 signatures at the deadline.
In years past, that’s been something of a challenge for any attempts to get anti-oil-and-gas legislation on the ballot. In 2018, however, the (ahem) climate surrounding the energy industry is especially turbulent, a factor that no doubt played into the success of Initiative 97. Unfortunately for those people who have been lulled into the belief that they’re saving their state, a growing number of experts believe that the passage of Initiative 97 could prove catastrophic for the state’s economy.
The Fallout From 97
Though it’s being sold as a salute to the state’s environment, Initiative 97 could prove costly. Over the first decade, the state could lose up to 150,000 jobs. What’s more, a best-case scenario puts the loss to Colorado’s economy at $170 billion over the first decade.
That loss isn’t restricted to the oil and gas industry, either. Construction, healthcare, hospitality, and government jobs would fall under the axe of Initiative 97.
Why It’s Not as Bad as It Sounds
Just because Initiative 97 is in the race doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing. First, the ballot initiative has some competition right out of the gate, and it’s a doozy. The Colorado Farm Bureau banded together to introduce Initiative 108, a measure that would penalize the government for taking or devaluing landowners across the state. The passage of such legislation would make it harder for anti-fracking activists to pass restrictive laws in the future.
Then, there are the numbers in question. One hundred seventy thousand signatures sounds like one heck a lot, right? It isn’t. In 2016, Colorado ballot initiatives received roughly 2 million votes on either side. In 2014, the last midterm year, ballot measures still clocked about 1.8 million votes per. In other words, 170,000 signatures in the pro column is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to election day.
Of course, the most prominent opponent of Initiative 97 is its supporters, who lean largely Democrat. In midterm years, Republicans vote. Democrats may be outraged, but Republicans show up to cast their votes, and that is bound to make the biggest difference when election day finally rolls around.
If we’re dependent upon the organizational skills of the top-level operators hoping to put Colorado Initiative 97 on the ballot, then it looks like the state oil and gas industry doesn’t have too much to worry about.
Anti-fracking organization Colorado Rising has spearheaded the gathering of signatures over the last several weeks in the hopes of getting Initiative 97 on the ballot in November. Unfortunately, thanks to what The New York Times referred to as a “routine contract dispute” with an out-of-state political consultant named Mike Selvaggio, several hundred of the gathered signatures went missing.
Ballot Initiative 97 proposes that oil and gas projects throughout the state of Colorado would be forced to ensure that extraction projects are at least 2,500 feet away from schools and domiciles. If passed into law, the measure would make 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado off-limits to oil and gas production.
A few days later, it turned out that Selvaggio’s firm had closed its doors because it was owed money for its service. While Colorado Rising denies that claim, it makes sense that some “missing signatures” would have been the natural result of a lack of payment on the part of the anti-fracking group.
Either way, the potential failure of Initiative 97 because of bureaucratic bungling is enough to take some of the pressure off those fighting against the passage of this harmful legislation.
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing Initiative 97 over the last several weeks, not because the tumult makes for good stories, but because this legislative maneuver could devastate the energy industry in Colorado. The 2018 ballot is filled with several other hopefuls (including one that would finally make slavery illegal, but Initiative 97 is far and away the most pressing. Should it find its way onto the November ballot, it’s more important than ever to get out and vote to protect the economy and prosperity of Colorado.
The oil and gas climate in the United States is mostly positive at the moment. After several rough years, a friendly administration has allowed the professionals of America’s energy sector a few months to breathe. There’s no time to celebrate in Colorado, however, as the oil and gas sector is prepping for a fierce battle at the ballot box in a few months time.
The Most Restrictive Initiative in Years
With each new election cycle, anti-fracking protestors find some new means of waging war at the legislative level. In 2018, however, they’ve cooked up a doozy in Colorado Ballot Initiative 97. The proposal would see Colorado’s rules on production setback increase from 500 feet for residences and 1,000 feet for schools to well over 2,500 feet.
According to Scott Prestidge, a spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Initiative 97 would cripple the state’s oil and gas sector in one fell swoop. “A 2,500-foot setback would shut down Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry and lead to a massive layoff of over 100,000 local jobs,” says Prestidge. “We hope Coloradans read before they sign any petition that would place this dangerous measure on the ballot.”
The Shifting Face of the Capitol
Should initiative 97 fail to ignite voters, there’s still plenty of room for damage to be done in November. At present, Republicans hold a narrow one-seat in the state’s Senate. Should the voting public shift toward the Democrats, that majority could evaporate, leaving the State legislature looking like a very unfriendly place for oil and gas businesses.
It remains to be seen if the “blue wave” will come to Colorado, but the economic ramifications of such an ideological shift could be dire.
Get Out and Vote Already
The upcoming elections in Colorado are more critical than merely picking a new governor. There are some very tangible threats to the ease with which Coloradans live their lives. Either a liberal-leaning state Senate or the passage of Initiative 97 could have far-reaching consequences in sectors far beyond energy alone.
When November arrives, at last, don’t miss the opportunity to make sure your voice is heard on every level in Colorado. Make sure to vote your conscience, vote for the economy, and vote for a thriving future in The Centennial State.