AP NEWS

CU Boulder CWA Panel to Address Fracking, U.S. Oil and Gas Policy

April 10, 2019

If you go

What: “Fracking, Hacking and Cracking the Earth: U.S. Oil and Gas Policy”

When: 9 to 10:10 a.m. Wednesday

Where: University Memorial Center 235

Cost: Free

More info: colorado.edu/cwa

A group of scholars and industry leaders are set to have a timely debate about fracking and its associated benefits and drawbacks at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Conference on World Affairs on Wednesday.

Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones will moderate the policy debate among Ivan Penn, energy correspondent for the New York Times; Steven Rubin, associate professor of art at Penn State University; and Chris Wright, CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services.

“My role as moderator is to make sure we have a lively and thorough review of the facts around the fracking issue,” said Jones, adding that in her role she will seek a full vetting of the facts but will not take a side.

Last week, the Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 19-181 , which Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign and which will make sweeping changes to the way oil and gas is regulated in the state. And the Denver Post on Sunday reported that Colorado public health officials have let oil and gas companies begin drilling and fracking for fossil fuels without first obtaining federally required permits that limit their emissions, a practice that might not be legal under the federal Clean Air Act.

Boulder voters in November also overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure that authorizes the city to tax the extraction of oil and gas.

“This is an issue near and dear to Boulder, so I look forward to a lively but respectful debate,” Jones said. ”... Even though this is a national discussion, it’s very timely at a local level as well.”

Penn, who writes about issues related to the electric grid, said one of the big debates has been about how to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“One of the big things right now is this question of natural gas serving as the bridge between where we have been with fossil fuels, supplying the generation for the grid in large part, to the shift to carbon-free sources of generation,” Penn said. “A great part of the debate has been up until now that renewables weren’t ready for prime time in terms of supplying the entire grid. Those things are quickly shifting.”

Solar and wind prices have dropped dramatically over the last decade, he said, to the point that in some cases solar plus its storage is cheaper than the natural gas alternative.

During the boom in clean energy sources, there also has been growth in liquid natural gas as an export, he said, though no state runs entirely on carbon-free electricity.

“The thing is, a lot of our energy still is coming from natural gas,” Pennsaid. “You’re dealing with the transition. The question is how fast the transition is going to take place.”

Wright said he supports more energy, more reliable energy and cheaper energy, regardless of where it comes from, because he sees it as an equity issue.

He said he did not want to discard residents’ concerns about oil and gas operations near their homes, and said the dialogue around various energy sources is important to evaluate options.

“I’m all in favor of the honest dialogue,” Wright said. “Are there tradeoffs? Of course. There are tradeoffs with everything in life, but we should try to rationally evaluate the downsides and the pluses of various energy sources and look for what’s got the greatest net benefit.”

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com