Oil and gas setback initiative: It’s time to stop begging and start demanding

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It's time for voters to stop asking Democrats and Big Greens to support their efforts for safe setbacks between homes and oil and gas operations. It's time to demand support.
Courtesy Shane Davis

When it comes to the issue of climate change there are only four kinds of people: ignorant, evil, hypocritical and sincere.

When it comes to putting an initiative on the ballot to protect human health and the environment from the dangers of oil and gas extraction (including fracking), it is very important to be able to identify these four groups. So let’s take a closer look.

The “ignorant” group is pretty easy to spot and understand. They make no bones about the fact that they simply don’t believe that climate change is a real thing. As long as they still have to wear a coat in winter they will never believe. They may be wrong, but at least they believe the words coming out of their mouths.

I’m not mad at these ignorant people. They are a pretty small group and for whatever reason, likely their education, they just can’t hear or grasp the science.

The “evil” group of folks is a bit more deserving of our anger. These are the men and women who know with certainty that climate change is real and caused by humans but they publicly claim that this is not true in order to justify the continuation of their profit-driven actions that are causing the world to warm. This group consists of lots of different folks from politicians to oil industry employees to investment bankers, hedge fund managers and investors along with the occasional scientist for hire.

This group gets to wear the evil moniker because they are simply willing to sell their children’s and grand children’s future for a few more dollars today. For most of us, such a position is simply inconceivable. Don’t let your kids play with these people.

Now let’s jump ahead to our “sincere” group because like the “ignorant” category these people are pretty easy to understand. They believe that global warming is the biggest threat to the future of humankind; they understand that humans are largely responsible for the Earth’s warming; and they believe that we have to take action to stop our march over the climate-change cliff. No, they aren’t all perfect. They don’t all drive electric cars and some of them cook with natural gas. But all of them grasp the problem and desire to do what is necessary to fix it.

Which brings us to perhaps the most complicated group, the “hypocritical” folks. This is, in my opinion, the most damaging and dangerous group of people when it comes to climate change.

These are the people who know that global warming is real; are even outspoken and very public about their belief in its threat, but yet, behind the scenes, undermine efforts to fight global warming because their commitment to their political party or environmental group or personal friends, family or bank account are the more important driver of their actions than their knowledge of the problem.

You know this group. Anybody who has been fighting against fracking in Colorado this decade knows this group all too well. It’s the Democratic politicians like Hickenlooper or Udall or Polis and way too many others at all levels of government who preach environmentalism while cozying up to the oil and gas industry. Publicly, they feign support for common sense regulations like larger, safer setbacks or community control that would stop oil and gas extraction in our neighborhoods. But when the door closes they tell potential funders not to support such initiatives because they might hurt the Party’s chances in the next election.

Hogwash. The only thing such support might hurt are these politicians’ campaign coffers and relationships with oil industry donors.

They take money from the pipeline industry, the natural gas industry, the Liquid Natural Gas export industry and wealthy donors strategically invested in all the above. Some of these politicians have even been invested in oil and gas extraction while claiming to be fighting fracking. They also take money from so called  “environmental” organizations that are themselves largely funded by fracking supporting donors whose primary purpose for giving is the funding of Democratic politicians, not fighting global warming. 

Sure these groups hide their support for fracking behind terms like “clean energy,” which translates to natural gas with a few renewables thrown in to greenwash the whole thing. But in the end, these big greens are funded by people like Michael Bloomberg who says fracking is the greatest invention since the light bulb. Far too many of these groups exist indebted to the nation’s largest donors to the Democratic Party. The environmental component of big greens may do some good at times, but it is always subordinate to the whims of those who support establishment Democratic candidates.

Want an easy way to spot the hypocrite group in our state? Just watch to see who doesn’t step up with an early, full-throated endorsement of the 2,500-foot setback initiative that will soon be gathering signatures in an effort to put it on the ballot this fall. Listen for those who say they would like to support the initiative if only it were weakened somehow — something like a smaller setback or maybe by taking out the wording that protects our water. Or my personal favorite: “We’re just afraid the timing isn’t right. This initiative might hurt Democrats’ chances in the coming election.”

Hypocrites. The world is dying now.

Donald Trump is a billion-dollar-a-day ad campaign that single-handedly will cause the largest blue turnout in Colorado history. All the “fracking is good for your babies” ads the industry can run, plus all the money they give to Republican candidates will do nothing to stop the coming blue wave. Anyone who offers that the setback initiative could hurt Democrats in the fall is politically naïve or worse: taking oil industry money, working for an organization that takes pro-fracking money or is married to a politician who was fully supported by the natural gas industry and returned the favor many times over.

“Beyond coal” may have started out as a good idea but it long ago — based on advances in climate science — became little more than the excuse used by Democrats and big green environmental organizations to crawl into bed with the oil and gas industry. I say “oil and gas” because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS JUST A NATURAL GAS INDUSTRY. Forgive my shouting.

It’s time that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, along with likeminded independents (aka the Bernie wing), stopped asking for the support of these hypocrites in their fight against global warming and instead started demanding it.

Global warming is a litmus test. It has to be. Politicians and environmental organizations that exploit this crisis via rhetoric, but who then put their own political fortunes or fund raising ahead of the issue when it comes to action, must no longer be tolerated. The one thing we know is that no Dem can win in this state without the full support of progressives belonging to the “sincere” group.

So it’s time to stop begging for their support in the fight against global warming. Voters who support protecting their children’s health, the environment and our taxpayer-funded open space should not have to crawl hat in hand to beg the hypocrite class for the relatively small amount of money that’s needed to put this setback initiative on the ballot.

Translation: Wanted: one or more persons of wealth, who haven’t been politically co-opted, to fund signature-gathering efforts.

It’s time for all of us to realize that the power is with the people. It’s time to demand full endorsement of this initiative in public and behind closed doors.

Do you hear that, establishment Dems? It doesn’t matter how much money you raise if progressives turn their back on you. If you didn’t notice in the 2016 election, progressives who oppose oil and gas extraction in their backyards are the majority of blue voters in this state, and without their support you are going nowhere next fall. So stop your backroom efforts to keep this setback initiative off the ballot or pay the price come fall. We’ll be listening for your endorsements so be sure and make them real loud. We wouldn’t want to keep you in the “hypocrite” category if you’ve decided to move up to “sincere.”