Governor Hickenlooper: What if Your Governor Had Worked in Natural Resources?

airwatergasheader_hickenlooper

In Colorado, in the circles I run in, Governor Hickenlooper, when he disagrees with what we might call “the “environmentalist” narrative” is said to be “in the pockets of the oil and gas industry.” There have been op-eds in the Denver Post, which I couldn’t find, but I did find this.

The cozy relationship between politicians and big business has been a fact of life in America since the days of the robber barons. Today, this affiliation is especially strong between certain governors and the oil and gas industry. And, the consequences could include drastic impacts on the health and safety of their constituents. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Here’s the link to this story.

Now this is kind of good, because Hickenlooper is a D, and so we have been blessed with relief from partisanizing invective, at least for this. But the interesting thing is that no hype is too strong for some writers.

But when I first heard this idea about Hick being in the pocket of industry, I had listened to this podcast of the Frackingsense series. What I heard on the podcast was something else entirely. The understanding of the technology and the people involved, by someone who had worked in the field of natural resources. Listen and see if you can hear the same thing. The Governor starts talking about 11 minutes in..but hearing Professor Limerick introduce their work in the first 11 minutes is also interesting.

There are many parts of this podcast that echo some of our forest natural resource disputes. Ideas like “where do you get your facts?”; with some thinking that folks in the academy are better sources than the experts in state government or others working in the field. I find this fascinating, because we discover that all these years it has not been seen useful by the Science Establishment to study the health effects of fracking (which has been going on for 20 years or more). Meanwhile, the folks in the State (whom Hick mentions) have been working in the trenches (or the wellpads) with the industry experiencing the real world of regulation. It seems to be a matter of trust.. with the academics thought to be more “independent” or perhaps more “objective science.” Fortunately, it appears that NSF has asked for evidence of neutrality in this grant.

Listening to the Governor he seems to lay out the complexities (like what do you do when you have split estate and people bought the mineral rights?). He seems to be coming from the “we’re all in this together, let’s figure out a way” school. But others are more in the “let’s not do it” school, which of course is difficult, as Professor Limerick points out because Coloradans’ behavior shows we are fine with using natural resources but perhaps not fine with producing them. Which means that we export both the impacts and the jobs to somewhere else. Does this sound familiar?

Except in this case, we are not exporting them to our friendly northern neighbors as with timber. Using natural gas has benefits for our country in terms of our economy, and also avoiding “foreign entanglements.” Maybe it’s because Colorado is host to numerous military bases, we can see firsthand the impacts of these to our military people and their families. We need to do this in a safe way. There is no “us and them,” we are all in this together.

As I listen to the Governor talk. he seems to know the business and knows the people. He even has real-world examples, as in “ if our energy prices are too high, we can’t attract business”. And of course, the conundrum, businesses bring jobs- without business, people are poor; and research shows that being poor has negative health effects.

Anyway, here’s a link to the podcast. Listen and see what similarities you detect between energy production and forest controversies.

Here is a link to the other FrackingSense podcasts. And one to the Center for the American West. Note that they are still selling their Gifford Pinchot t-shirts.

10 thoughts on “Governor Hickenlooper: What if Your Governor Had Worked in Natural Resources?”

  1. Sharon,
    Since your post mirrors the moral decay of a recent NYT article on the same subject, I thought I’d start with Donald Brown’s response titled,
    “New York Times Article Misleads On The Moral Acceptability of Climate Change Policies.”

    ( http://blogs.law.widener.edu/climate/2013/09/12/new-york-times-article-misleads-on-the-moral-acceptability-of-climate-change-policies/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EthicsAndClimate+%28ETHICS+and+CLIMATE%29#sthash.fvHKHVoW.dpuf“)

    “Whether a nation or individual should act to prevent climate change is a matter of justice, not simply a matter of economic efficiency or welfare maximization.”

    “Many observers of the state of global response to climate change have concluded that there is no hope in preventing devastating climate change harms unless nations and individuals understand that they have ethical and moral responsibilities that are not captured by framing climate change as a matter of economic interest or welfare maximization alone not to mention that framing climate change policies as matters of economic interest distorts and ignores ethical responsibilities.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Then there’s the issue of the carbon bubble and stranded assets:

    “While visions of billions dance in CEOs’ heads, the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and permafrost threatens to unlock methane emissions that will incur costs in the tens of trillions, much of it associated with floods, droughts and storms in vulnerable regions (such as Colorado). So why are financially affluent nations still spending hundreds of billions subsiding fossil fuels? ”

    (snip)
    “The 2°C global carbon budget—a key climate-change goal agreed at UN-led talks in Copenhagen in 2009—has a ceiling of 545 gigatons in carbon dioxide emissions (by) 2050; today’s national and private reserves amount to three times that level. Past 2°C, there is a risk of nonlinear tipping elements. Even a less ambitious, riskier target of 3°C would restrict known fossil fuel reserves significantly.” (from, “Fossil Fuels and the Impending Market Crisis
    by LEE HALL http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/12/fossil-fuels-and-the-impending-market-crisis/

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    (from the UK’s, The Independent posted in 2011)
    Vast methane ‘plumes’ seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats

    “Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

    The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/vast-methane-plumes-seen-in-arctic-ocean-as-sea-ice-retreats-6276278.html)

    Reply
  2. @larryharrellfotoware

    Larry: Sometimes Global Warming makes ice. Basically it can do about anything needed to qualify for government research funding if the threatened consequences can be made scary enough and you know the right people. Very much like Old Testament prophets and Cold War politicians.

    Reply
  3. @Sharon
    I would be interested in hearing your response to Donald Brown’s arguments re:

    “framing climate change policies as matters of economic interest distorts and ignores ethical responsibilities.”

    Reply
  4. @David Beebe
    David, I tried to access your second link yesterday and it didn’t work for me…

    I thought I’d try again today and I still can’t get it to work. To understand his argument I think I’d have to read more.

    Reply
  5. Many observers of the state of global response to climate change have concluded that there is no hope in preventing devastating climate change harms unless nations and individuals understand that they have ethical and moral responsibilities that are not captured by framing climate change as a matter of economic interest or welfare maximization alone not to mention that framing climate change policies as matters of economic interest distorts and ignores ethical responsibilities. For this reason, there is a growing consensus among serious observers of national commitments on climate change, that the only hope to increase national ghg emissions emissions reductions targets to levels that will avoid dangerous climate change impacts is to find ways to assure that national ghg targets are based upon “equity” and justice.

    A New York Times article on September 11, 2013 makes a greatly misleading claim about the moral basis for action on climate change. The article, Counting the Cost of Fixing the Future, by Edwardo Porter, erroneously claims that a moralist would respond to climate change by demanding that the price on carbon be significantly higher than what the business world would recommend the price should be ($65.00/ ton versus $13.50 /ton). Although the article doesn’t say explicitly that that if the social cost of carbon is high enough there are no moral objections to using welfare maximization considerations as the basis for determining the acceptability of climate change policies, this is implied by the article because the use of the social cost of capital calculations by policy-makers is almost always used in cost-benefit analyses. The problem with this claim is that there is an unexamined premise in this article that is deeply ethically flawed. The article assumes that whether a government should act to prevent climate change depends upon whether a proposed government climate change policy will increase welfare after the social cost of carbon is calculated and compared to the costs entailed by reducing greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. There are strong strong moral and ethical reasons against using the social cost of carbon in this way.
    Whether a nation or individual should act to prevent climate change is a matter of justice, not simply a matter of economic efficiency or welfare maximization. Although some utilitarians might agree that government policy should maximize welfare or utility, there are strong ethical objections to a nation basing its climate policy on the basis of welfare maximization alone. Moral problems with the use of the social cost of carbon calculations in cost-benefit determinations used to determine whether a government should act to reduce the threat of climate change include the following:
    Some governments and individuals more than others are more responsible for climate change because they have much higher emissions of ghg in total tons, per capita levels, and historical contributions to elevated atmospheric concentrations. Justice requires that these considerations be taken into account in determining emissions reductions targets.
    Some of the poorest people in the world who have done almost nothing to cause climate change are the most vulnerable to climate change. These people will suffer the most if governments and individuals refuse to reduce their emissions based upon “efficiency” or “welfare maximization” considerations. These people have not consented to be harmed because costs to polluters of reducing their emissions are high. “Efficiency” and “welfare maximization” justifications unjustly sacrifice vulnerable people to the economic prosperity of the entire community.
    The harms to vulnerable people from climate change are not mere reductions in economic welfare, they include catastrophic loses to life and damages to ecological systems on which life depends.
    Damage estimates on which the social cost of carbon are based are not evenly distributed. Some places more than others face catastrophic risk. People in these places have not consented to be harmed. Theories of procedural and distributive justice prevent these people from being harmed without their consent.
    Climate change will interfere with the enjoyment of human rights. Those who violate the human rights of others may not use “efficiency” or “welfare maximization” justifications for violating the human rights of others.
    Nations and individuals have ethical and moral duties to reduce the threat of climate change, not simply economic interests.
    These are only a few of the ethical and moral problems with the use of social cost of carbon calculations in cost-benefit analysis as justification for non-action on climate change. For additional ethical problems with economic arguments made about the acceptability of climate change policies see articles on this website under the category Economics and Climate Change Ethics in the Index.
    The New York Times article makes a claim about what moralists would do which is very misleading because it implies that as long as the calculation of the social cost of carbon is high enough, there are no moral objections with the use of welfare maximization calculations as the basis of climate change policy.
    The New York Times article should have acknowledged that there are ethical objections to a nation basing its climate policies on cost-benefit analyses. One of the reasons why there has been a widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change is because free-market fundamentalist ideologies have successfully framed the climate change debate as a matter of economic interest rather then global responsibility. The New York Times article implicitly continues to encourage people to look at climate change policies as a matter of economic self-interest rather than ethical obligation. This both distorts and hides obvious ethical problems with national and individual responses to climate change.

    By:
    Donald A. Brown
    Scholar In Residence
    Widener University School of Law
    dabrown57@gmail.com

    – See more at: http://blogs.law.widener.edu/climate/#sthash.o5LavKhb.dpuf

    Reply
  6. @David Beebe
    I took a look at Mr. Brown’s background.. not to say that he shouldn’t be talking about ethics.. we can all talk about ethics..
    http://law.widener.edu/Academics/Faculty/ProfilesHbgAdj/BrownDonaldA.aspx

    He sounds like a very interesting person.

    He says

    The New York Times article should have acknowledged that there are ethical objections to a nation basing its climate policies on cost-benefit analyses. One of the reasons why there has been a widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change is because free-market fundamentalist ideologies have successfully framed the climate change debate as a matter of economic interest rather then global responsibility.

    That’s not my read of the situation. My read is that we all might want to do something about climate change, but we don’t agree on the best path to proceed. When I taught environmental ethics at Virginia Tech, one of my favorite books was Rushworth Kidder’s “How Good People Make Tough Choices” because ethics is really not all that complicated, and you don’t have to believe what people write, you can (and should, IMHO) think it through for yourself. As I’ve said before, while some in the academy think “we’re not acting” it looks to me in Golden as if “we are acting.” So you would have to argue that we are not acting “the morally correct way” and if some other policy would invoke the “morally correct” way.

    In terms of the quote “widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change”; this implies that the author understands citizens’ ethical responsibilities and the citizens themselves do not.. therefore the author is placing himself in the position of being an ethical authority. I don’t think that’s legitimate.

    I, like many folks, have been involved in discussions of ethics and moral authority since pre-school.. and my experience has been that people are more successful in changing peoples’ views by standing in the trenches with people, and listening to them, than claiming superior moral authority. But perhaps that’s just my experience.

    Reply
  7. Re: “widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change”

    1) People can’t deal with the complexities of the issues. If they can’t understand it and the experts disagree then they can’t make up their own mind as to what is right so, is there really an ethical question just because someone or some group says so? ‘Hey, it ain’t a law so why should I worry about it when I don’t even pay attention to the existing laws and the government doesn’t either. It’s just some fat cat trying to squeeze me for his advantage.’

    2) People are basically driven to survive today no matter what the cost is tomorrow. They only thing that they have for certain is this second. If they can’t understand their ethical responsibilities to avoid short term pleasures that lead to their own destruction, why should they give up their pleasures of the moment for something that might happen after they are dead.

    Some of you will remember my oft repeated story of the subsistence farmers in the Amazon jungle who cleared out two to five acre subsistence farms that destroyed the thin soil after about three years. They would then move on to clear out another couple of acres. When the government explained that they were being environmentally irresponsible, their answer was something like ‘why should we care, we will be dead in a couple of years if we don’t do this.’ Why would most people give up something that they love for a maybe? Mañana is the word of the day for a large segment of the populace.

    3) The little boy has cried wolf too many times. Twenty some years ago we were entering an ice age. Now it’s global warming – ‘who cares – that guy that invented the internet and preaches all of the time about preserving our environment doesn’t walk the talk. He jets all over the world. Why should I worry about the environmental footprint of my SUV?’

    Reply

Leave a Comment