Longform

How Colorado became ground zero in America's energy wars

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Proponents of natural gas, including the Obama administration, tout it as a "bridge fuel" to a cleaner energy future, pushing for the conversion of coal-fired power plants to gas as a substantial step toward reducing carbon emissions and battling climate change. The fractivists maintain that it's a bridge to nowhere, citing recent data that indicates leaks in gas pipelines and other infrastructure issues may be contributing far more methane to the atmosphere than previously estimated.

The fractivists' proposed alternative future is detailed in one segment of Dear Governor Hickenlooper, focusing on the work of Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, who recently unveiled a plan for conversion of the American energy grid from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable sources by 2050. Shane Davis claims that Colorado could get out of the fossil-fuel business even sooner by hiking energy severance taxes, which are lower than those charged by many neighboring states, and devoting the revenue to solar and wind development. "We can transition out of this quickly," he says.

The coming election season could be a turning point, a moment of decision in a charged atmosphere of big money and big talk, scare tactics and spin control. Davis isn't worried. As he sees it, it still comes down to real boots on real concrete.

"Personal sacrifice will beat their money every time," he says. "It's just a matter of time until we can shut down the industry."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast