Ernest LuningErnest LuningDecember 23, 20173min743

The scientists at Golden's National Renewable Energy Laboratory have received a nearly $2 million federal grant to build a better system to forecast when the sun will be shining, Colorado's U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner announced Friday. The project is part of a Department of Energy program to improve integration of notoriously variable solar-generated electricity into the power grid.


Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 16, 20173min934
President Trump has tapped Walter G. Copan, an El Paso County businessman who helps entrepreneurs cash in on innovation, as undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology, the White House announced this week. If confirmed, Copan would have the dual role as director of the Boulder-based National Institute of Standards and Technology, which promotes U.S. innovation […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 22, 20175min615

In advance of a pending Trump administration 2018 budget proposal to slash U.S. Department of Energy research programs, Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner joined fellow Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and four other GOP members of the Senate in a letter to President Trump urging him to stay the course on the funding. The letter got some press in the nation’s capital last week.

Some key passages:

Government-sponsored research is one of the most important investments our country can make to encourage innovation, unleash our free enterprise system to create good-paying jobs, and ensure American competitiveness in a global economy.

The United States does many things well, but one thing we do better than any other country in the world is innovation through research.  The Department of Energy’s research programs have made the United States a world leader in science and technology, and will help the United States maintain its brainpower advantage and remain competitive with countries like China and India. …

… We cannot lose the technological advantages we have gained through our country’s investment in research and development.  Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.

A call for continued research subsidies, to say nothing of a tribute to public-private partnerships, aren’t the usual fare of free-marketeering, budget-hawkish Republicans. Then again, federal spending isn’t only about political philosophy.

The letter’s policy merits aside, there are no doubt some hard-boiled political considerations behind it. Among them — for Gardner, at least: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

A draft of the administration’s budget proposal included not only steep cuts to the Energy Department’s fossil fuels and nuclear programs but also a dramatic reduction in funding — on the order of 70 percent — to the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. That’s the agency that, according the Washington Post in March, pretty much pays the federal portion of the Golden’s lab’s tab:

Several staffers said cuts of that magnitude would damage U.S. research and technological competitiveness. They suggested much of the brunt of the cuts could fall on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at Golden, Colo., the country’s leading clean energy research facility. …

… Virtually all of the lab’s federal funding comes from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — $273 million out of its total federal budget of $292 million in 2016.

The lab, better known as NREL, has a total budget of over $350 million and nearly 1,700 employees, giving it a substantial economic impact on Golden and surrounding Jefferson and Boulder counties.



David O. WilliamsDavid O. WilliamsDecember 30, 201615min465

Despite a growing list of climate change doubters and fossil fuel industry supporters and executives comprising the list of Trump administration cabinet nominees, Democratic Colorado lawmakers and environmentalists are hopeful the state’s clean energy economy and outdoor recreation industry can continue to thrive. Mostly, though, there’s a growing sense of dread from the conservation community as President-elect Donald Trump picks people like Republican Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke for the post of Interior Secretary, former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy Secretary and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Oil and gas industry representatives, meanwhile, are eagerly looking forward to Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20. About a third of Colorado is owned by the federal government and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. Coal mining and oil and gas companies have for the past eight years of the Obama administration lamented environmental regulations perceived as hurdles to energy production on public lands.


David HillerDavid HillerAugust 24, 20165min469

Colorado’s clean energy economy has seen remarkable growth over the past twelve years, and I’ve had a front row seat. As policy director on Ken Salazar’s 2004 Senate campaign, his state issues counsel from 2005 through 2007, and as the executive director of the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory from 2007 to 2016, I’ve seen these changes firsthand: renewable energy technologies have become mainstream, successfully competing head-to-head with coal and natural gas for new electric power generation in Colorado and around the world; Coloradans have led the world in establishing regulatory systems to make natural gas a cleaner source of energy, and we’ve made huge strides in technologies to produce fuels and chemicals from plants and algae.

Colorado PoliticsColorado PoliticsFebruary 15, 20164min340


State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg expresses deep concerns about the prospect of a tax on carbon (i.e., a tax of hydrocarbon production as a means of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere). He is concerned about the impact of such a tax on personal budgets and on rural and lower-income communities. These concerns need to be addressed, because the risks of not addressing climate change are very high for all Coloradans. We are already seeing the effects of warming in forest die-offs, reduced snowpack, and erratic rainfall. These and other effects have significant economic consequences, with the agricultural sector particularly vulnerable to climate disruption — crops are vulnerable to stress from heat, pests, irrigation shortages, and extreme weather. To leave our environment as unperturbed as possible for future generations is a conservative approach to the world.

A carbon tax need not be punitive. A revenue-neutral approach to constraining carbon dioxide emissions would return the monies collected to individual households, allowing them to offset the cost increase in energy produced from hydrocarbons. Low- and middle-income households would be better off economically than without such a tax. (The National Association of Manufacturers study that Sen. Sonnenberg cites to the contrary is not revenue-neutral; that is, the study assumed taxes collected were not returned to the public). The experience of British Columbia with a revenue-neutral carbon tax shows the approach works.

This “pass-through” approach to taxing carbon shifts the scene from a regulatory approach to a market approach, in which purchasing decisions by consumers and businesses are governed by cost considerations. A carbon tax can be phased, starting modestly and increasing annually, geared to the timeframe of investment decisions. Major oil companies, including ExxonMobil and BP, favor a carbon tax, and large corporations, including Google, Walmart and Coca-Cola utilize internal carbon pricing.

Colorado stands to benefit economically from a shift in energy sourcing. In fact, alternative energy is surging, even in the presence of low oil and gas prices. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory sets testing standards and conducts fundamental research for wind and solar. Manufactures of wind turbines have chosen to locate in Colorado, and researchers at Colorado universities collaborate with major utilities to improve generation, transmission, and storage of new energy sources. Yes, hydrocarbon production will wane over the coming decades, but the structural transition will produce new companies, new jobs and even new exports of technology. Let Colorado entrepreneurs show the way. Technological innovation will play a key role.

Innovation will also play a key role in softening the localized impacts of a shift away from hydrocarbon production, a major concern of Sen. Sonnenberg for the town of Craig. For this, we need political innovation as well as technological innovation. Time after time, the Colorado Legislature has provided innovative political solutions to difficult problems. We are confident they can examine the many possible methods of relieving localized economic distress and come up with good solutions.

Phil Nelson