The Cost of Free Speech? Five Grand if Lamborn Has His Way

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Talk's not cheap. Not if House Republicans led by Congressman Doug Lamborn get their wish.

Make no mistake, the sole purpose of the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act, introduced by Congressman Lamborn, is to make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on public land. In fact, so easy that a permit would be automatically approved if the Department of Interior failed to act in 60 days.  All this while recent polling reflects a much different mood in the West:  only 35 percent said that more public lands should be opened to “responsible energy development.”

It's what money buys today on Capitol Hill. 

The kicker?  If you want to file a protest, you'll have to pony up $5,000.00

But the Congressman didn't stop there: his bill also directs the Department of Interior to commence commercial leasing of oil shale – a practice banned since the days of Herbert Hoover – and not to be confused with the more common shale oil. 

Oh, how the Congressman longs for the days of Hoover.  It was just so much easier then for white men, hell-bent on burning that black gold formed millions of years ago to exert their dominion over the Earth. They poisoned an unsuspecting public the old-fashioned way then: with lead paint, PBB, PCB and dioxins, unencumbered by a skeptical and informed public or concerns over rapidly-depleting natural resources – or a collapsing climate. 

As our departed friend Randy Udall often said about the resource:

“there is three times more energy in a ton of Captain Crunch than there is in a ton of oil shale."

Political fortunes built on the back of oil titans and snake-oil schemes. Have we learned nothing in the last 30 years?


Capitol Hill’s “Uncle Kracker”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

He’s a smooth-talking, fidelity-wrecking-ball:

Promising to swim through your veins like a fish in the sea.

You’ve forgotten how you met him 

And now you don’t know why you can’t say goodbye.

You’re better off if you don’t ask “why?”

He’s not worried ’bout the ring you wear…

‘Cuz as long as no one knows than nobody can care?

But you don’t look ashamed …

and baby, he’s not scared…

This act of mass infidelity with the American public started long ago – “Uncle K” seemed practically harmless then.  He wooed you with his tantalizing scent of rBGH.  He assured you there was no need to second-guess him; he’d done his own research. Baby, stop being scared.  He’s the same guy that showered us in an earlier dalliance with Agent Orange and PCB.  What could possibly go wrong this time?

He’s beyond benevolent as he matures:  according to OpenSecrets, in the first three months of this year, he spent $1.4 million lobbying Washington—and spent about $6.3 million total last year, more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria. (Yeah, those folks – the ones who never lie about their product).

And girls, don’t get the idea he’s a ‘one woman’ kind of guy – you’re really not that special.


Congressman Gardner: Tear. Down. This. (Blend)Wall.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Only Nixon could go to China.

Only oil-man George W. Bush could deliver a national Renewable Fuels Standard and create the world's largest wind-energy market.

Perhaps only my Congressman can catalyze a very different conversation on Capitol Hill about the role of renewable fuels in our nation's future. 

With increasing regularity, political attacks masked as journalism have replaced a national press corps that once served as a legitimate arbiter of fact.  As it turns out, the AP article was devoid of a laundry list of facts.  Yet another in a series of well-funded efforts by Big Oil to undermine our march to an economy less-dependent on fossil fuel while building our national economic, security and energy resilience.  (In June of this year, the US Supreme Court ruled against the American Petroleum Institute, etal. on their challenge to E-15.) 

If there is any one thing the renewable fuels industry can count on – this won't be the last time they'll be up against the Big Oil legal team. 

Interests with that kind of money don't like to be told 'no".

If one took the AP story and inserted 'Bakken Field' or 'fracking" for every reference to ethanol, you'd get a more complete picture of the assault on our environment by those industries.  Funny enough, no one on Capitol Hill is calling for an end to the extraction activities of those precious, finite resources.

It isn't that hard to do the math.

There is more-often-than-not substantial costs, both seen and unseen, to "walls" – they can manifest themselves in many ways: physical walls intended to separate the free from the oppressed;  political walls that prevent an engaged public from participatory democracy.  Regulatory walls that maintain monopolistic powers in a theoretical free-markets.  Economic walls that perpetuate poverty and concentrate wealth.

From an energy perspective the United States is the East German-equivalent side of the Berlin Wall.  An economy controlled by Big Oil – an industry long-addicted to public subsidy, parading as a free-market provider of cheap energy.  A government literally occupied by the monied interests of the industry [they have spent in excess of $105 million in lobbyist this year alone]; a society under siege by a hostile climate created by the industries emissions.  A society longing for a different form of energy governance.

Our energy future lies on the west side of the wall.


The Case for the LincolnXL Pipeline

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When I think of Abraham Lincoln, my first thought is emancipationthe process of setting one free from legal, social, or political restrictions. In his day it meant ending the scourge of human enslavement.  And although Lincoln's primary challenge during his Presidency was preserving the Union, it's not often someone also thinks of the Lincoln Presidency as one that transformed American agriculture.  His background made him uniquely suited for the vision: he was well-versed in pioneer farming and rural life; he understood and participated in small town democracy.

Lincoln understood the power in educating his fellow man: in July of 1862 he wrote in to law the Morrill Land Grant Act, establishing our nation's land grant university system.  He understood the transformational nature of technology: from hand labor to horse-drawn power; from there to steam power.  He understood the need to unleash the full production capacity of American soil.  He understood that the best use of labor was for the opportunity for those laborers to become landowners, no longer the "mud sill" laborers, or slaves, that defined the current agricultural paradigm.  Thus, the Homestead Act of 1862.  Lincoln's Pacific Railroad Act opened up the western United States to trade and the delivery of goods.  It also provided for a telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  He identified the need for a permanent government agency to further the research and development of crops and livestock, so in that same year he established the United States Department of Agriculture and gave it Cabinet status.  He called it, "the peoples department"

Lincoln thought BIG.

At some risk of being taken out-of-context, it would be hard to argue that Lincoln's vision of an emancipated, educated citizenry has yet to come to full fruition.  Our struggles as a nation continue. Today, there are more African-Americans on probation, parole or in prison than there were slaves in 1850.  We are faced with a stagnant job market and woeful under-investment in educating our next generation.  A crumbling infrastructure and a climate in collapse.  A national economy addicted to petroleum – not unlike our addiction to slave labor in the days of Lincoln.  And a wealthy few who would fight to the bitter end, even war,  to preserve a business-as-usual scenario. 

Our challenges remain.  Today we're bombarded with a multi-million dollar ad campaign attempting to convince the American public that our national energy security will be found in a pipeline from Canada, the KeystoneXL.  The business-as-usual crowd is spending millions to keep our addiction to the illusion of cheap oil firmly intact.  That same crowd seemingly has no angst at the pillage of our nation's most precious resources to create immense wealth for a few.  And a growing belief by some that our bests days are behind us.


Why 310 Matters to (970): A Tale of Two Votes

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tuesday the latest political assault on Boulder, Initiative 310, will be decided.  I'm confident our Founding Fathers wouldn't be impressed – this isn't the way a democracy should function.  In 2011, a majority of Boulder residents voted to take back local control of their city electric utility – defeating Goliath, Xcel Energy, who spent $1 million in an effort to preserve their $34 million in annual profits they extract from the community.  Defeated but not deterred, the "Billion Dollar Bully" returned in 2013 (after initially denying any connection to the campaign)  with a vengeance and yet another ploy to reverse democracy.  And if the most current assault on the residents wasn't enough, the Colorado PUC has now weighed in with a decision that both sides agree will continue to make the local control of their utility increasingly difficult.

On the same day, northern Colorado secessionists head to the polls to decide on separating themselves from the state, often mentioning how "Boulder liberals" are negatively affecting their way of life.

There are no shortages of opinions on both issues by locals and non-locals, conservatives and liberals, clean energy advocates and coal apologists.  Those who characterize Boulder as "Twenty-Five Square Miles Surrounded by Reality" , others who see it as an epicenter of the energy transition already well-underway around the globe. Those who think Boulder should "negotiate"; others who understand that negotiating with this public entity if an exercise in futility.  Those who believe there is a War on Rural Colorado; those who see everyone as a participant in our state economy.

Boulder was the birthplace of Windsource, which later became a wildly successful, customer-supported green energy program at Xcel.  But not before they were scoffed at by utility executives and assured "no one in their right mind would pay a premium for green energy".  Boulder was the birthplace of the idea and political support for Amendment 37, the successful, 2004 citizens-initiated ballot that changed the trajectory of Colorado energy policy – and ultimately caused billions of dollars of investments in wind farms in rural Colorado.  But not before they were scoffed at by Xcel Energy,  Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the Colorado Rural Electric Association and Intermountain Rural Electric.


A Congressman and a Cabinet Member: Holcomb Heat

He, the dashing former frat boy in political ascension. Her, the striking accomplished politician:  the daughter of an Ohio Governor, they became the nation's first-ever father/daughter pair in the United States after her election.  She lead the Governor's Ethanol Coalition beginning in 2006; her "tough as nails" persona three-times defied efforts of a bought-off Kansas legislature to build an ill-conceived coal plant in Holcomb, Kansas.  As Governor, she reached out to a Koch Industries economist in an effort to streamline Kansas government, ultimately yielding hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for Kansas taxpayers.  A Presidential Cabinet Appointee. She was everything he wanted to be.

Their exchange began; you could cut the tension with a knife. He asked her to take a look at his exhibit.  She said she couldn't see it. The Congressman was surprised, then indignant.  "You can't see this?!"No, I'll need my glasses", the Secretary replied. Then, the incontinent Congressman: "Did I see you on a tricycle in Meade, Kansas once ?"   The Congressman laughs.  This isn't going like I thought it would, he thinks to himself.  It was starting to feel like an Octopus mating ritual.  And if you're the male in that equation, it always ends badly.  His anxiety grew.

Jaxine might pen this evolving romance  "Holcomb Heat".

The hearing ended; she remained unimpressed and unmoved by his exhibit.  She thinks to herself, "this is going nowhere he's obviously a "Red Solo Cup" kind of guy … yet another case of arrested development on Capitol Hill. I'll bet he's a secessionist, too."  

He thinks to himself, "I'll show her who's the smartest person in the room".  He knows his fraternity brother Tim has his back: he filed an amendment to the Farm Bill – an amendment that would undo all of her work as Governor to prevent the construction of Holcomb. He laughs, nervously.  He hopes it will work, but he's increasingly feeling like a trapped, male Octopus.

She's playing chess, he's playing Tic Tac Toe.  Even the Scarecrow knew a girl from Kansas was where you went to for wisdom, advice – and a course in how to be fearless.

He should have brought roses. He should have been on bended knee.  Her political leadership means his district now has a shot at hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy.  The over-100,000 constituents in his district without health care look to the Secretary to shepherd the bumpy rollout so they'll be covered – in spite of his ill-fated efforts to shut down the government over ObamaCare. He's troubled his constituents may figure out they are benefiting from her leadership. He knows their gratitude for the opportunities in future wind and energy development – are because of her.

"Perhaps I could impress her with a snipe hunt" he thinks to himself. 

She's convinced he thinks hazing is still considered a male mating ritual.

It could have been a love story if, "he'd only had a brain.




Koch and a Christian: the Faux Pipeline to Prosperity

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

They're spending millions to win over an increasingly skeptical America.  A campaign promoting Canada as a reliable supplier of oil and a “world environmental leader” in the field of oil and gas development. Never mind that a vast amount of their tar sands are now owned by China.  Forget the fact that China is choking on its own pollution at home. Forget for one moment this pipeline has almost nothing related to being "American": jobs, energy security or economics.  According to TransCanada, the amount of permanent jobs created would be only in the hundreds. That's right. Not thousands. Or tens of thousands. Or hundreds of thousands.  A few hundred.

In contrast, the US ethanol industry as it exists today – even while under attack by Big Oil to roll back our Renewable Fuels Standard – employees in excess of 87,000 direct employees.  In 2012, ethanol contributed $43.4 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and added $30.2 billion to household income.


Grace and the Greyhound – A Congressional Tutorial

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The past 36 hours has been a canvas of the hope and challenges we have as a nation – a journey that began and ended in the shadows of the United States Capitol.

I planned the trip. I didn't plan the experience.

It started with a meeting on Monday evening with a dear friend and agricultural expert Sara Wyant.  I've had the honor to know Sara and her husband Alan for years, both leaders in the agricultural policy:  Sara as Editor of Agri-Pulse, fellow founding board member of the "25x'25" alliance and former [and first woman] chair of the Farm Foundation.  Her publication is appropriately named – she has her finger on the "Washington pulse" in all things ag-related.  Alan was an appointee at USDA-Rural Development during the Bush years.  He and his boss were avid champions of Wray and the community accomplishments we achieved as one of only twelve rural towns chosen nationally to participate in the Pioneer Hi-Bred, International-funded "Search Communities" program in the late 80's.  In 1993, Wray was competed and won the  "All-America City"  designation. Thanks to Tom and Alan we had the opportunity to showcase the "Wray experience" at two national conference of state directors of rural development in 2006.

The agricultural community is lucky to have the leadership of this dynamic duo.

Amongst our many tangent conversations Sara and I had regarding the fate of the Farm Bill, we discussed the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]. How will we deal with this public assistance? Will be go with the Senate version that proposes $4 billion in cuts, or the House version that seeks a $40 billion cut? The stakes are high. Particularly with those who struggle in extreme conditions daily. I had no idea this discussion was preparing me for the next 24 hours.


Suffrage, Saran Wrap and Shoe Boxes: A Mom’s Touch in Shaping the Future

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tonight, while the male Senate leaders tied the bow on a deal aimed at ending the government shutdown, the credit for shaping the package is being given to a group of women.  As quoted by Senator John McCain:

“It’s a good outcome” … “Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily by women in the Senate.”

Perhaps Margaret Thatcher summed it up best:

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

It’s been only 93 years since women were first allowed to vote in a national election: the 1920 Presidential.  A full 50 years after Wyoming first granted it’s Territory’s women the right in 1869.  For many of my female friends, they are only two full generations hence from the day their grandmothers had no such privilege.

Political leaders around the globe are seeking solutions to boost domestic economic growth. Yet today, in the dawn of the 21st century, women are still the most over-looked solution to our global ills.


Snipe Hunting With Cory

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, Joe Bageant is quoted:

 “The four cornerstones of the American political psyche are emotion substituted for thought, fear, ignorance and propaganda

In Yuma County we have, like many rural counties, a special kind of "hunt", one that requires a deserted country road, bright lights and a burlap sack.  It's a fools errand for the unsuspecting: "snipe hunting". Today's Capitol Hill Kabuki Theater offers us yet another version of the game – a political snipe hunt – complete with the four cornerstones and our very own Congressman.

A snipe hunt is a practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task; a specific type of "wild-goose chase" where a person embarks on an impossible search. A snipe hunt is always initiated by a person as a prank, it is never accidental.

It's hard to know where to start – or where the story will end.  His position on the federal shutdown? Disaster Assistance hypocrisy?  His refusal to back up his health premium hike claims? Thousands of children living in childhood poverty in CD4? The KeystoneXL pipeline?  What does a river in Alaska and a Congressman from Yuma have in common?  Farm Bill subsidies?  Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program funding?

The common thread to his votes?  His constituents? 

Please. Another guess? [hint: psst, over there —-> ]


How quickly he mastered how Washington works. Let's get started…


The ‘Tolling of the Bell’ for Sunflower?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Friday the Kansas Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, invalidated the air pollution permit granted to Sunflower Electric Power Corporation for their proposed Holcomb coal plant. This is a significant development in what has become a series of [failed] attempts by Sunflower, who is nothing more than a proxy for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, to construct what would be one of the last coal plants in the United States.  This, on the heels of a U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in May  rejecting a plea from Sunflower to overturn a 2012 federal judge's ruling that put the project on hold. The decision ordered the Rural Utilities Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to complete an environmental study before deciding whether to grant federal consent for the new unit.

Even in light of this latest judicial spanking, the Sunflower Electric response is "it will continue to take the steps necessary to preserve and advance the project."

Sunflower is  plagued with financial challenges and owes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized loans. Today, they seek forgiveness of portions of the loan principal so that private financing for this project can be secured; they are also attempting to circumvent due process through an amendment to the pending Farm Bill.  Even before a single shovel of earth is turned, financing and environmental compliance challenges should be ringing every bell in the proverbial "fire house".

The construction of this plant wouldn't be plausible at all if it weren't for Tri-State committing the purchasing power of its Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska & New Mexico rate payers to the Kansas project.

Smoking?There is nothing cheap about coal. And there is an irony in the region's claim they are "fiercely independent". When you need the loan forgiveness of the American taxpayer to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and the circumvention of the financial and judicial process to build a plant that you tout to your members as "cheap", perhaps its time to step back from the Kool-Aid and ask ones self the hard questions.

This is great news for renewable energy advocates on both sides of the Kansas line. Today 2.3 gigawatts of wind stand tall on the eastern plains of Colorado, providing much-needed tax base to our rural communities. These wind farm developments provide jobs and significant new tax base in our rural areas, important manufacturing jobs on the Front Range – and are the cheapest source of new power in the grid today.

The rejection of Holcomb, and the embrace of a changing energy paradigm by Tri-State would mean we on the eastern plains have only seen the tip of the iceberg of "what's possible".  It's time to end the faux media campaign, the "War on Rural Colorado".  It's patently false.  Our real enemy is a Kansas coal plant –  the one thing standing between a future where rural Colorado is chained to decades of a 19th-century power supply – or one where we become a full participant in Colorado's "Innovation Economy".  A future where we no longer dig for our fuel supplies – our energy will fall free from above and across the prairie; a future where our energy costs are no longer ever-increasing and volatile, but free.  A future where our grid is distributed, resilient and secure

A senior member of the "Beyond Coal" campaign summed up the Supreme Court decision best: “The proposed Holcomb coal plant is now a fading mirage on the plains."

Why Colorado Agriculture Should Care About Fuguitive Natural Gas Emissions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Earlier this year the Climate Change Program OfficeAgricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture released a report, “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation” .  The report was the first, comprehensive report on the effects of a changing climate and the need to address adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to US agriculture.  In Colorado we’ve witnessed extreme droughts in the southeast over the past decade; our farmers in the northeast are challenged with diminishing water flows in the Republican River.  As a result, large tracts of irrigated land are being retired; Bonny State Reservoir has been drained.  On the west slope, predictable timing of runoff poses increasing challenges to agriculture – while they wrestle with many demands downstream for the water. The Ogallala Aquifer, once the worlds largest underground source of water trapped millions of years ago is now in what many describe as ‘the fourth quarter’.

While carbon dioxide emissions is the pollutant, as determined by the United States Supreme Court in 2007, that enjoys the bulk of media attention – there is another gas more potent, and increasingly playing a role in the Colorado air quality challenges:  methane.  In particular, fugitive methane emissions from Colorado’s natural gas industry and coal mines.


Food Stamps, Jobs and [Junk] Food Subsidies

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy:  hypocrisy, fraud and tyranny"

~Frederick William Robertson

Last weeks vote in the House of Representatives, significantly gutting the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program [SNAP], was both an historic and a close vote.  Historic in the sense that it was stripped from the House version of the Farm Bill in July; an act not endorsed by either the Colorado Farm Bureau or the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.  Close, in the sense that in the final tally of 217-210: a different vote by any four members of the Republican caucus would have given us a different outcome.

In the final vote Colorado's House delegation fell along party lines with Gardner, Tipton, Coffman and Lamborn voting to gut nutrition assistance;  Polis, DeGette and Perlmutter opposing the cuts.  The four Colorado Republican votes supported the elimination of $40 billion from the nutrition program – and further eroding the long-standing partnership between the domestic agricultural interests and the social justice advocacy groups in farm bill negotiations. Think about that for a moment: one percent of the House of Representatives body – a mere four votes – determining the fate of food security for 15% of all Americans, including 186,000 Colorado households. And given their response, little sleep was lost with their vote.

The July vote, which for the first time in decades separated the nutrition support from commodity subsidy payments by a score of 216-208, could also have produced a different outcome as well with just four Republicans voting differently. In that vote, only two of Colorado's seven House members, Gardner and Tipton, supported the House version even though it was opposed by both state farm organizations. 


“The War on Rural Colorado” v. “The Innovation Economy”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"We've met the enemy and he is us"   ~Pogo

There is a "War on Rural Colorado" – but it's not being waged by who you think it is.  It's not a war waged by urban Democrats.  It's not a war waged by our Governor.  It's a war waged by entrenched rural interests steeped in 20th-century business models, powered by 19th-century energy resources: coal.  Entrenched interests who cling to a model that, by design, is the enemy of entrepreneurship and innovation.  Entrenched interests who resist a new energy paradigm:  a distributed energy generation model.  It is a war of our own making.

Imagine for one moment the reaction by Colorado Republicans to a mythical headline in the Denver Post: "Colorado Legislature Mandates Construction of Sustainable Electricity Distribution Pilot Project in Rural Colorado".  Queue the clown car:  "War on Rural Colorado". "Out of touch legislature attacks rural values".  Independence Institute dog-whistles at Defcon 2 and another yet-unwarranted attack by Vince Carroll on the folly of a 21st-century energy policy. 


The Farm Bill Folly of 2013

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The ink hadn't yet dried on the House-passed version of the 2013 FAARM  [Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act] Act of 2013 before the guile began:

“I applaud the passage of the farm bill in the House today. It is an important piece of legislation that provides certainty for America’s farmers while modernizing and streamlining our agricultural policy."

~Congressman Cory Gardner

Well, if by "certainty, modernizing and streamlining" you mean "devoid of structural changes that have broad bipartisan support in both chambers, no form of means testing and converting subsidies scheduled to sunset in 2013 into permanent law, all at a cost that is $25 billion higher than the President requested in his budget, and $18 billion more than your own party's "Path to Prosperity" budget resolution, you nailed it. 

In the words of Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."


The ‘Sunflower Conundrum’, Chapter 2

This past week marked the inaugural meeting of the Governor's task force that will monitor the implementation of SB13-252, the renewable energy mandate placed on rural electric coops in the 2013 legislative session.  A significant opportunity to bring a renaissance to rural Colorado – masquerading as a 'War on Rural Colorado'.  A fake war.  An imagined war whose only casualties will be those who continue to bet on 19th century technology and refuse to adapt to a new world.  A world that is moving from centralization to de-centralization of energy generation.  An effort led by the United States Department of Defense, and ironically piloted right here in Colorado

I've written before on the folly of this Kansas project.  A project that has the effect of Tri-State committing their balance sheet – which is by default the balance sheet of every rural cooperative in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – to a plant in Kansas.  In a territory not served by Tri-State.  A project that will chain rural electric members to last-centuries technology and its ever-increasing costs for decades.  A project that will displace the vast opportunities awaiting rural Colorado communities.

It's no secret that Tri-State has spent tens of millions of dollars since 2006 to see this plant become a reality. In the process they now own the water rights to over 37,000 acres of prime farmland below John Martin reservoir for the sole purpose of producing energy via coal and nuclear plants.  As a resident of the Tri-State territory from a multi-generational farm family, there are few things that are more repulsive to my soul than the drying up of some of the most productive farm land in the state for the purposes of electrical generation.  It is the worst of both worlds:  ending the productivity from the land and the resultant local economic activity – to build a 19th century generation asset that could be easily displaced by 21st century technology that does not place additional demands on our agricultural water. 


Ron Binz Nominated By Obama To Head FERC

Yesterday, President Obama nominated Ron Binz to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Binz is the former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and a senior policy advisor to Colorado's Center for the New Energy Economy, a Colorado State University initiative headed by former Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.

Binz is uniquely suited to fill the shoes of outgoing chairman Jon Wellinghoff: Colorado's rapid adoption of aggressive renewable energy standards as a model for a national blueprint that Binz will now oversee.  To make the kinds of transitional change called for by the President on Tuesday in his national climate plan, our Colorado model provides a state example of how to reach the destination.

Congratulations to Ron on his nomination – and to all those who have made this day possible.  The hard work of those who set the stage for our New Energy Economy – starting at the ballot box in 2004 when we passed the first citizen-initiated renewable portfolio standard in the nation, Amendment 37 through the recent passage of SB13-252 – made our "Colorado story" possible.  By extension, everyone who contributed to this uniquely Colorado story has made possible the nomination of a fellow Coloradan to now influence a national platform.

It's a great day for both Colorado and our country.


Hubris v. Humanities

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

I've spent the last week in Washington tending to the industrial hemp issue and trying to find avenues to solve the collision of our state policy with current federal policy that bans the cultivation of the crop via the Controlled Substances Act.  We have had three avenues to address the problem: stand-alone bills S.359 and H.R.525 that would remove the crop from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act [it is treated legally on-par with heroine and cocaine].  Our other two avenues were as amendment to the Farm Bill debate that is nearing completion. 

First up: an attempt in the Senate to attach the bill as Amendment 952, which failed due to an early cloture vote.  The process then shifted to a House strategy.  Congressman Jared Polis submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday that won approval.  The Amendment, #37, was debated last night on the House floor, winning by voice vote.  There will be a recorded vote today, thanks to the ignorance of Rep. Steve King [R-Iowa].  But more on him later. 

Welcome to America, the greatest country in the world, where ketchup is considered a vegetable and industrial hemp is a Class 1 drug.


The Looming Bitter Harvest: A Father’s Day Reflection

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  Luke 12:48

It's my Father's Day reflection.  I look at my children who have become productive, caring adults and think of the many advantages they had growing up on our Yuma County farm: a stable household, a caring school and church community, access to a great public education and health care.  Roots and wings.  In agrarian terms they are the product of a well-tended seed whose bounty fills the proverbial 'granary'. 

But the shifting demographics of the vast, 21-county landscape of Colorado's 4th Congressional District are setting the stage for a bitter harvest, reflecting a national trend of the vanishing middle class and growing inequality


The Silly State of Dumphuckistan

(A worthy read once past the title – promoted by Colorado Pols)

I promised myself yesterday when I first received a call from a Republican friend who called to say, "OK, this was 'the straw" – the one that broke the camels back – that I wasn't going to divert any of my weekend time on this.  But as I read through the comments on an earlier post – its something I couldn't stop pondering as someone with deep roots in rural Colorado.

As background, I'm a fifth-generation Coloradan.  My great-great grandfather homesteaded in Phillips County in the late 1800's; the next five generations have called Yuma County home.  I grew up on our family ranch in southern Yuma County and graduated from Idalia High School, a small, rural community of 100 people.  I spent the vast majority of my adult life in Yuma county.  We're blessed with an abundance of natural resources in Yuma County.  Our most significant resource: a vast ocean of underground water known as the  "Ogallala Aquifer';  a resource that turned the prairie sandhills north of the Republican River and the vast stretches of dryland wheat south of the river into one of the most productive breadbaskets in the United States.

We can grow almost anything in Yuma County.  Our 250,000 acres of irrigated land made us the top producing corn count in the nation in the 70's. We're home to one of the world's largest feedlots – built first by the Monfort family.  We have vast stretches of productive grassland and natural gas has played a significant economic role in our County for decades. 


The ‘Sunflower Conundrum’ and SB13-252

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This week a US Court of Appeals dealt a blow to Sunflower Electric, a Kansas-based Generation & Transmission company that has proposed building a coal-plant complex in Holcomb, KS to supply electricity to Tri-State Generation and Transmission.  The court rejected arguments by the financially-plagued  Sunflower Electric to bypass new requirements for an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS].  Wall Street has even weighed in on the folly of this proposed plant.

This court decision is sadly the latest chapter of a much-maligned project that has been unable to find a pathway to construction.  First proposed as a series of three-700 Megawatt installations in southwestern Kansas, it has been scaled-back to a single, 895 Megawatt plant that would sell the bulk of its electrons to Westminster-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission.  As a result of this latest court decision, the ability of Sunflower to construct and operate the plant comes in to question. 

A 2007 veto statement by then-Governor Kathleen Sebilius read: “I veto this legislation [permitting the Holcomb construction] because while the rest of the country is trying to reduce greenhouse emissions, Kansas would be creating massive new emissions for power we don’t need. The bill before me attempts to take us down a failed path.  What was a bad idea last year, is an even worse idea today. We also know that according to Sunflower Electric’s own reports, their customers will not need additional power until 2018…These developments reaffirm that now is not the time for new coal plants in Kansas.


Senators Bennet and Udall: Make Farm Bill History

"Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?"

~Henry Ford


The United States Senate will have the opportunity to make history this week while debating the 2013 Farm Bill: a full debate on the re-legalization of industrial hemp via an expected floor amendment.  The crop of our forefathers.  A crop deemed so critical to our nation's future that farmers in Colonial America were under a mandate to grow the crop.  The crop that made possible Ben Franklin's Colonial Free Press.  The crop that clothed our early military; protected our pioneering ancestors as they crossed our vast prairies –  and counted 16 million acres of production in the 1862 Census. The crop USDA deemed so critical to national defense the federal prohibition was lifted during WWII.

It was a tragic confluence of events that lead to the demise of hemp.  Prohibition was in its waning days, and the federal bureaucracy built around alcohol seizure no longer had a mission – a focus on narcotics would be the lifeline for the bureaucracy.  Our nation was on the cusp of launching an economy mobilized by Rockefeller's new-found 'black gold'; the synthetic clothing market and the advent of the agricultural chemical industry was in its infancy at DuPont.   And media titan Randolph Hearst,  the owner of significant forestry assets, had launched an all-out media war on Hispanic immigrants and marijuana.

Thus was borne the "Marihuana Tax  Act of 1937";  legislation devised by Henry Anslinger and his uncle, Andrew Mellon of Mellon Banks to tax the production of industrial hemp.  And with the new tax, the production of hemp became an uneconomical alternative to the newly developed energy, synthetic clothing and chemical industry derived from fossil resources controlled by titans DuPont and Rockefeller.  Mellon was the banker of both DuPont and Rockefeller.  It's not terribly hard to do the math.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And with the enacting of the Marihuana Act came the demise of Henry Ford's "Iron Mountain" project where he had developed a sedan made of industrial hemp composites that was powered by ethanol fermented from hemp.  He had also developed an entire line of hemp-based  lubricants and industrial products.  

Forward to 1970 and the birth of our nations failed 'War on Drugs'.  Marijuana is defined as a Schedule 1 narcotic, on par with cocaine and heroine by the DEA, despite the fact the Congressional intent stated emphatically: 


    "nothing in this Act is meant to prohibit the production of hemp for industrial purposes"


In 2012 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment, Amendment 64, which in addition to legalizing adult use of marijuana also legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp by Colorado farmers.  Touting wide bi-partisan support, the amendment garnered more votes than our President.  The Colorado legislature acted swiftly and by Sine Die 2013 had put in place a regulatory framework for hemp.  The legislation passed third reading in both chambers with a unanimous vote.

Thus, an industry was borne.  Now the conflict between Federal and State law must be resolved.  And from this growing conflict between state and federal law (18 states took various legislative action on industrial hemp this year) was borne the "2013 Industrial Hemp Farming Act", known in Congress as S. 359 and H.R. 525.  Both Chambers tout broad, bi-partisan support.  But this legislative journey remains unclear.  The Judiciary Committees were given jurisdiction in their respective chambers.  In both cases, no hearings have been scheduled.  It's even more unclear whether the bills will be heard at all this year, given they are in the queue behind Immigration Reform.

Is there a better, more efficient way to move this legislation on an issue that broad support from across the political spectrum?  Yes – a floor amendment during the full Farm Bill debate in the Senate this week.  And we need the pro-active leadership of our two Senators.

Industrial Hemp has the potential to add a new, vibrant  addition to our agricultural 'horn of plenty' in Colorado.  The crop requires few chemical inputs; its water requirements are minimal when compared to many traditional crops across the eastern plains and western slope.  Its ability to remediate soils has at the potential to heal salt-laden agricultural soils and mitigate heavy metal contamination from old mines and superfund sites.  The United States is the largest consumer market of hemp products in the world – a $400 million annual market demand met exclusively from imports.  American farmers remain the only agriculturalists in the industrialized world to be prohibited from its cultivation.  

And while giving Colorado farmers a crop alternative to help them meet their ever-growing water resource challenges, the crop also gives us significant environmental benefits:  its ability to extract enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon from the atmosphere.  Hemp extracts four times the CO2 annually per acre than does a standing forest.  Annual dry biomass yields per acre range from 2-3x the amount of biomass produced by either a corn or switchgrass crop;  ethanol-from-hemp reduces the greenhouse-gas-emissions by 86% when compared to transportation fuels from petroleum.

It is expected that Senator Mitch McConnell will introduce a floor amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill on Tuesday that would remove hemp as a Schedule I narcotic, legalizing its cultivation under federal law, and moving jurisdiction of the crop from DEA to USDA.

Despite recent demands on House members from the Heritage Foundation to not move on any legislation, (which also includes the Farm Bill) the action will be in the Senate on Tuesday.  A unique opportunity for our Senators to lead the fight for the passage of this amendment – and stand with the 55% of their fellow Coloradans who so wisely legalized the crop six months ago.  

Senators Bennet and Udall, please take a proactive role on this potentially historic event.  Farmers, conservationists, the environment, our natural resources and the state economy will be the benefactors of your leadership.