On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: The Roan bonanza
Five years ago the Rocky Mountain News reported that the Roan Plateau in western Colorado “is on the Bureau of Land Management’s Top 10 list of areas across the country put on a fast track to expedite oil and gas drilling.”
Some fast track. The BLM has yet to lease the land. But the waddle of a federal bureaucracy is still too speedy for congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall, who accuse the agency of rushing to judgment. This week, the pair called for a moratorium of at least one year on any leases, to provide more time for public comment on the BLM plan.
The Roan is an interesting test case for the seriousness of American energy policy. Drilling atop the plateau is being fought not only by environmentalists, who as a matter of head-in-sand principle oppose all new drilling, but also by some local communities and outdoor enthusiasts.
Against that opposition, however, must be weighed the following facts:
The Roan sits above what is possibly the largest untapped natural gas field in the lower 48 states — enough to heat 4 million homes for at least the next 20 years.
The BLM will impose development restrictions as severe as any in existence. Among other things, the rules would protect sight lines, limit drilling to only 350 acres at one time, mandate reclamation as drilling migrates from site to site, and permit only one operator to work on behalf of leaseholders.
Roan leasing could produce a tax bonanza for Colorado totaling billions of dollars over coming decades. Indeed, the state and local share of lease bonuses, which are one-time payments at the time leasing occurs, could alone soar to perhaps $1 billion, if recent bonuses on nearby land are any hint.
Duane Zavadil of the Bill Barrett Corp., which develops oil and natural gas properties in the West, tells me that all signs point to perhaps a $40,000 per acre bonus for the Roan. Maybe Gov. Bill Ritter doesn’t have to let our property taxes climb after all.
With coal becoming a pariah and nuclear still in the wings, is there anyone who doubts that this nation will be using more natural gas a decade from now than it does today — even with a profusion of new wind farms?
If opportunities like Roan Plateau aren’t seized, we will deserve whatever onerous heating bills come our way.
Leaders of the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder are defending a panel they organized for speaking “candidly and sensibly to the [Boulder] high school audience, providing cautionary information about alcohol consumption, drugs, sexual issues and teens.”
Here’s an example of that cautionary attitude in action: “I’m going to encourage you to have sex,” Los Angeles psychologist Joel Becker announced to students, “and I’m going to encourage you to use drugs appropriately. And why I am going to take that position is because you’re going to do it anyway.”
On the bright side, Becker didn’t actually encourage anyone to sell drugs or sex. A real bluenose, that Becker.
Maybe Tom Tancredo thinks illegal immigration is such a self-evident catastrophe that he doesn’t need to explain why during a major debate, let alone tell voters what he’d do about it. But in Tuesday’s forum in South Carolina, Colorado’s 6th District congressman once again never quite rounded the bases to make his case.
On one key answer, he had barely tagged first before the bell cut him off — in part because he spent so much time setting up a quip comparing the road to Damascus to the road to Des Moines.
Tancredo did manage to say that “the issue of immigration is enormously important to me” and that “this issue of immigration is one of the most serious public policy issues we face,” but he might want to put a little flesh on that skeleton the next time out.
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountain
Roan--out of bounds...ANWR--out of bounds...outer conintental shelf--out of bounds...new crude oil refineries--out of bounds...new nuclear power generated plants--out of bounds...coal generated power plants--out of bounds...coal gasification--out of bounds.
Carbon credits, windmills, solar power, corn, polar bears and one sheet of toilet paper per wipe--OK.
The Roan is a moonscape...let's stick some holes in it and get the gas.Posted by Hank on May 17, 2007 11:05 AM
Don't be so impatient, Vince. I'm sure the Roan will be trashed soon enough to make you happy.Posted by B. Drunk on May 17, 2007 10:06 PM
And in a few years when Coloradoans start complaining why their natural gas bills are so high, their electricity bills, their gasoline bills .. who then will the Democrats blame? Why, of course, "BIG OIL"! Folks, this is who you voted for; now you've got to pay the fiddler.Posted by SlouchingtowardBoulder on May 18, 2007 04:08 PM
What is surprising is that the only TV station that has carried the news about the World Affairs conference morons who instigated high schoolers to do drugs, seems to be Fox. I am no fan of Fox, and this is not a political issue. Why are other channels relinquishing their responsibility to report on this inexcusable incident?
One speaker encouraged the use of Ecstasy - the excuse: "you'll do it anyway." Bullcrap. Children's use of ecstasy has been going steadily down, but even one child user is too much. It's not candy.
We are failing our children.