We can have it all if we’re willing to work toward compromise
Earlier this week, I was invited to sit on a panel hosted by Conservation Colorado to discuss how tourism fits into continued efforts for clean air, land, and water efforts in our community.
There’s a pretty good chance that U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s aide and I were the only conservatives in the room, which is unfortunate since the event was open to the public.
Regardless, I was happy to be invited to the panel in an effort to have a real discussion on the issues. Panels where like-minded people talk to an audience of like-minded people only further the political divide. Discussions like the one that ensued move us closer to solutions that better fit the entire community.
We had a good and sometimes tense discussion that covered the energy industry, the potential overcrowding of our trails and public lands, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership’s recruitment efforts, the role of schools in our community and global warming.
These discussions often take an either/or approach. The classic example is energy and the environment. We can have the energy industry or a healthy environment, but we can’t have both.
Except that I believe we can. My business promoting western Colorado’s agritourism and outdoor recreation industries relies on clean lands and water for those industries to survive. I support conservation easements to preserve our agricultural industries. Access to public lands is why we live here and I want clean air for my kids. But I also consider the natural gas we sit on to be a natural resource just like our peaches, grapes, incredible trail system and vistas. We can have it all — a healthy energy industry that pumps money into our community as part of a diverse, economic portfolio alongside clean land, water, and air.
But few people see it that way. City leadership — especially those who have lived through the energy booms — always put energy first and foremost. And when energy leaves, they make feeble attempts to attract other industries right up until energy comes back. Tourism and outdoor recreation are treated as a nice byproduct of living here. We like our wine and our trails, but river guides and ski bums aren’t a “real” industry and we don’t really want those hippie tree huggers littering our private property with their granola bar wrappers.
At the other end of the spectrum, those hippie tree huggers don’t always understand that 70 percent of the energy we produce in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels. Compare that to the 6 percent currently produced by wind and solar combined. So while wind and solar farms are nice, they aren’t making up the deficit anytime soon.
So the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, we’ve pretty much lost the ability to cooperate and meet there. Eight years of overregulation and partisan ramrodding from the Obama administration have resulted in a complete about-face that will now reap payback on those who took advantage of their powers. Maybe if those policies hadn’t been ramrodded through without Republican input to begin with, the Republican party wouldn’t be so eager to roll those efforts back. The ACA comes to mind.
Before the Ds put me on their blacklist, I am equal opportunity when it comes to placing blame. The Rs are just as guilty of the political strategy and maneuvering that sent us down this slippery slope and I have every expectation that they will exercise the same tactics used by the Democrats now that they are in power. And so the pendulum that has naturally swung back and forth for the past 240 years is now reaching new extremes that put party over country every time.
If we were all willing to give up just a little, I believe we’d gain a lot more. Pipelines are the safest way, by far, to transport oil and gas, but they are subject to failure, which can pollute our land and drinking water. Wind and solar farms have incredibly large footprints — who wants to cover the entire state of Kansas in wind turbines to replace coal? But technology improves these systems every day — pipeline monitoring systems detect and prevent leaks while solar cells and wind turbines produce more energy on a smaller footprint. A compromise that balances both and invests in technology for cleaner energy production is the only way forward until we actually learn to use less energy — the real crisis that nobody is talking about.
But all of that requires leadership and a willingness to compromise. And in light of recent events in which our own Sen. Ray Scott took a play right out of Trump’s playbook and chose to conduct business over Twitter instead of picking up the phone, I am not hopeful we’ll get there anytime soon.