Mesa County as energy epicenter

There are plenty of predictable prescriptions in Mesa County’s portion of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “Bottom-Up” economic development plan that was released Wednesday.

For instance, it’s hardly news that many people in this region want to undertake projects that assist in “identifying new markets for natural gas and promoting natural gas consumption.”

Nor is it a surprise that the local folks who put together a list of goals and strategies for the governor want “streamlining and improving (of) frameworks that regulate oil and gas operations in Northwest Colorado.”

However, the fact that the plan focuses on many ideas for economic development in this region that have been around a long time doesn’t make those ideas wrong. They may, in fact benefit from a renewed emphasis.

But some of the ideas in the county plan are less traditional. They also deserve additional emphasis at the state and local level.

They all fall under the rubric of helping Mesa County to “Become an Epicenter for Energy Innovation.” One innovative idea is to develop programs at Western Colorado Community College to evaluate and test new technologies.

There are also proposals to use the Cameo power plant as a place to test new energy technologies, establish energy-focused incubator programs at the Business Incubator and assist the agriculture community to develop new plant stocks for biofuels.

There would also be research emphasis on solar, wind and geothermal technologies, as well more traditional energy sources such as coal, uranium and natural gas.

Additionally, the plan calls for increased state and local effort on developing, promoting and supporting public and private vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

These are ambitious proposals, some of which will require large sums of money to complete, which isn’t easily available at any level of government under the current economic conditions. But others will require more redirection or re-emphasis than a significant influx of cash.

When Hickenlooper campaigned for governor in 2010, he pledged to work with communities across the state to put together economic development ideas that were tailored to local community needs. His county-by-county and region-by-region plans accomplish that, even though much of what’s proposed cannot be enacted quickly.

There is much more to the Mesa County portion of the governor’s plan than the few items we have highlighted here. Readers can view more online, from this area and the entire state, at http://www.colorado.gov/coloradoblueprint.

The notion of working to make Mesa County the epicenter of energy research makes a great deal of sense because of the abundance of both traditional and alternative forms of energy that are available within a short distance from the Grand Valley.

We hope these ideas won’t remain just words in documents left to gather dust on the Internet equivalent of a back shelf, but will be actively pursued, here and in Denver.


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