Anyone who wants to ruin Colorado's economy — anyone who wants a dearth of jobs, a dying housing market and a low overall standard of living — only need sign a petition or otherwise support one or more ballot initiatives intended to further regulate fracking.
A new study by the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business found that a ban on fracking would cost Colorado 68,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic activity over five years.
Don't think this would harm only roughnecks out in the oil field. The study found that a loss of fracking would rip through an array of jobs sectors, ranging from health care to retail to farming. That's because less money in the state means a giant reduction in all activities that require access to abundant capital. Along with a loss in jobs, we'd see more deterioration of roads and bridges and less money for schools.
Among the more menacing fracking bans that may be headed for the November ballot is one that proposes giving communities local control over private property that could otherwise be used for oil and gas production.
Petition circulators will say it's only a move toward local control, not a ban at all. They'll say the concern about lost jobs is a lot of fuss over nothing, as this proposal is not a "ban."
Don't buy the song and dance. If it gets on the ballot and becomes law, local politicians will put it to use. They will go into "Not In My Back Yard" mode all over the state with local fracking bans, the likes of which we've seen mostly in the Boulder area. It's politically expedient to say the energy we all rely on, along with the severance tax revenues these commodities generate for communities, should be produced somewhere else. It's a fantasy proposition that says we should all enjoy the benefits of new jobs, taxes and abundant fuel but incur absolutely none of the burden or the infinitessimal environmental and health risks posed by energy production.
It's also politically popular for politicians to reallocate private property for what they claim is a greater good. On the surface, the confiscation of mineral and land rights only burdens a few property owners and oil producers while ostensibly benefiting the collective.
If a new law allows NIMBY mania to catch on, the oil and gas industry will blacklist Colorado and run. It will cost too much to do business here. As Gov. John Hickenlooper frequently reminds us, Colorado already has the strictest oil and gas regulations in the country. Our intense regulations give advantage to other states that want and need the kind of high-wage jobs provided by energy production. Despite all the beauty and climate advantages God gave Colorado, our state finds itself envying newfound prosperity of North Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas.
So we must ask ourselves whether regulations that run the industry away are any less harmful than an outright ban. The answer is no. Jobs and revenues will be lost, regardless of the intention of regulations.
Fracking has fueled our state's economy for decades without most Coloradans noticing. Only in recent years has anti-fracking activism become a hobby popular enough to fool and frighten enough people that new regulations might show up on a statewide ballot. Do not let unfounded fears and ignorance of a common energy production method throw Colorado into poverty. Don't sign petitions and don't vote in favor of proposals that would add regulation to production of oil and gas.