Skip to main content

Governor Reading From Polluter’s Script

The oil and gas industry in Colorado has a new script to disparage efforts to move towards a clean energy future. And one of their friends—Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper—appears to have gotten the memo about how to belittle those trying to limit the damaging impacts of dirty energy.

Take statements made two days apart by the president of the Colorado Petroleum Association and Gov. Hickenlooper. Both men responded to efforts to limit the damage caused by fossil fuels.

In an Aug. 22 article on National Geographic’s website, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, derides those seeking a fracking ban in their community as hypocrites who are still using fossil fuels while trying to limit drilling. He also attacks the idea of a fracking ban as a hollow gesture that is merely “symbolic.”

So, industry’s response to the need to transition from fuel that’s poisoning the air, threatening our water and heating the planet is to attack opponents as ineffective hypocrites. Nice.

Here’s how National Geographic’s Joe Eaton wrote up the Petroleum Association’s spiel:

Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said in most cases Colorado fracking bans are little more than symbolic gestures in communities that have little or no energy development. In Longmont, for example, Dempsey said there was only one drilling operator. Nonetheless, Dempsey said, the industry spent $500,000 to influence the vote in Longmont and will continue to take cases to court.

“All of these communities are going to be sued for taking someone's mineral interests from them,” Dempsey said. “I think it's a bit hypocritical for communities saying ‘not in my backyard,’ but we want the energy in our tanks and we want natural gas to heat our homes. I think so much of the opposition [to hydraulic fracturing] is really about opposing the development of fossil fuels. They don't want any more fossil fuel development, period.”

Now listen for the echo (or prequel) as Gov. Hickenlooper, in an Aug. 20 interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, responds to a question about a proposal to have the Colorado University system purge its portfolio of fossil fuel extraction firms.

The governor responds by saying divestiture proponents risk being labeled as … ineffective hypocrites.

The question starts at 8:18 into the interview; my rough transcript follows:

Gov. Hickenlooper: Anytime you do any kind of a divestment or a boycott, which is essentially what that is, a form of a boycott, it’s a pretty serious measure. And I think it’s a little bit disingenuous, too—if you’re still driving a car, or if you’re still, you know, living in the old-fashioned hydrocarbon economy, right, where your house is heated, your office is heated with either burning oil or natural gas, you run some risk of being, you know, being seen as a hypocrite.

Ryan Warner: Or you just make changes where you know you can.

Gov. Hickenlooper: Well, exactly, you make changes where you can. But, taking money—I mean right now, we don’t have the capacity to ramp up renewable energies at the scale which he is obviously contemplating. It’s just not gonna happen. So, if you are starting to divest yourself of oil and gas companies’ stock—I don’t think it would make much difference to them. They have huge companies. They have shareholders all over the world.

So, the Guv tells advocates they may be seen as hypocrites, and that moving away from fossil fuels is “just not gonna happen” anytime soon.

Comments straight from the polluter’s playbook.

Those comments not only miss the point, they are wrong, since such individual “symbolic” efforts, if they take hold across the state and the country, could raise awareness, put a dent in the fossil fuel industry’s bottom line and help us transition to a cleaner and sustainable future.

Further, a recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that in the West, in just 12 years, renewable power from wind and solar power, even without subsidies, could compete on a cost basis with natural gas power plants. That’s a far cry from “not gonna happen.”

As Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner succinctly put it:

You just make changes where you know you can.

We should keep trying to make changes where we can to move to cleaner energy, no matter what industry and their allies in government say.

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.