Penry plan to abolish energy office is not good for Colorado

Josh Penry’s suggestion that it might be time to abolish the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) may backfire. Rather than exposing a “silo of patronage,” his remark has brought attention to “the single brightest light in our economy,” as House Speaker Terrance Carroll called the energy office.

Rather than a drain on resources that might go “for essential services like schools, roads and public safety,” as Penry charges, the GEO costs nothing from the General Fund that pays for these needs.

In a breakdown of GEO funding, Colorado Pols reports that $1.1 million of its $1.6 million budget comes from the federal government. The remainder comes from gaming and severance taxes via the state’s Clean Energy Fund. None of these funds could be diverted to balance the budget.

The GEO has also become a significant economic driver for the state, particularly since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill. As the Denver Business Journal reports, the GEO “will be awash in federal economic stimulus money.” Over the next three years, the GEO will disburse $138.8 million to stimulate jobs, increase renewable energy use and reduce energy use.

GEO programs include nearly $80 million over three years for weatherization programs. During the same period, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants will disburse $42.8 million to state and local government for upgrading building codes, incentive programs for business and homeowners and training. Nearly $50 million will be spent over three years for a State Energy Program, including financing projects and giving rebate and incentive information to owners of homes and buildings.

In addition to federal stimulus spending, Rep. Carroll points out, “In the past few weeks alone, SMA Solar Technology, SunRun Solar, Siemens Wind and RePower have all announced plans to create new jobs here. Vestas’ Colorado workforce will total 2,500 by this time next year. Xcel Energy just yesterday announced a new solar-expansion plan that will create thousands of new private sector jobs.”

“Closing the governor’s energy office would be a ridiculous idea,” Gov. Ritter said, “Given how fruitful we’ve been in luring companies here to be part of our energy economy.”

It is difficult to believe that Senate Minority Leader Penry is totally ignorant of the success of the GEO, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least until he has an opportunity to revise his position. Meantime, those who are seriously interested in Colorado’s new energy economy will be encouraged by a recent study of the potential impact on Colorado if Congress passes the American Clean Energy and Security Act and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

According to this analysis performed by scholars from University of Illinois, University of California and Yale University, such legislation at the national level would create between 918,000 and 1.9 million jobs, increase annual household incomes between $487 and $1,175 per year, and boost national GDP between $39 billion and $111 billion over and above growth in the absence of such legislation.

In the state of Colorado, that would translate to the creation of between 11,000 and 30,000 jobs, depending on the degree of energy efficiency achieved. State GDP would increase by $.03 billion to $1.0 billion (2008 dollars) more than without clean energy legislation. Household income would be raised between $425 and $1,138 per year, according to the study.

These figures are all in addition to growth Colorado would experience in the absence of federal clean energy legislation.

Josh Penry damaged his credibility when he distorted facts and figures to accuse Gov. Ritter of going on a hiring binge during an economic downturn. His uninformed and unsubstantiated attack on the GEO continues this pattern.

“When Sen. Penry and the Republicans are ready to offer some serious solutions, we’re ready to listen,” said Rep. Carroll. Meantime, the attempts to smear the governor through distortion and misrepresentation are doing more to undermine Penry’s credibility than to damage Ritter. Is this any way to run a primary?


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