Hickenlooper National Security Policy Avoids Energy Revolution

Former geologist hailed energy development as indispensible to democracies

John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
• May 20, 2019 4:00 pm


John Hickenlooper's rollout of a national security plan called for climate change to be treated as a security issue, but the presidential candidate has avoided the topic of the recent U.S. energy production boom, which he cited in 2015 as heralding a new era of safety and stability to liberal democracies that value freedom.

On Monday, Hickenlooper's attempt to rebuke the Trump administration included a call for the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate treaty.

"I will rejoin the Paris Climate Accords on my first day in office, and then exceed their targets and summon this generation of Americans to an all-out fight against climate change," the former two-term governor of Colorado said in Monday's speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "The perils we face internationally from global warming will challenge us and the world far beyond the short-term threats we face."

Those remarks reflect a stark contrast to ideas he put forward in 2015 at the Columbia Global Energy Summit held in New York.

At that time, Hickenlooper praised Israeli innovations in oil and gas development such as hydraulic fracturing as helping to break the stranglehold of the Organization for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on energy production.

"The U.S. is on the cusp of energy independence, that's going to take a little longer because of the drop in prices. But Israel is achieving energy independence with their offshore discoveries Tamar and Leviathan," Hickenlooper said. "Now the United States and Israel and many other countries are no longer as beholden to OPEC. We really control our own fates."

Hickenlooper later added that the new technologies that unleashed an American energy boom were likely only to grow more potent.

"The large service companies like Haliburton and Schlumberger and the others are all really going to push the research, and as that increased efficiency and cost effectiveness continues to increase, it's gonna expand the role that, that widespread fuel recoveries are to create independence in terms of our democracies and providing stronger roles for energy, er, for stability and freedom," he said.

Weekly data showed the United States had become a net exporter of oil and refined fuels by the end of 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"The shift to net exporter from importer, detailed in weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, may be short lived," the Journal reported. "Still, it demonstrates that America is moving closer to achieving ‘energy independence' as the shale revolution makes the country one of the world’s top oil producers and reshapes global markets."

Hickenlooper briefly touched on energy issues in Chicago on Monday, but only as it relates to Russian intervention in Venezuela and his pledge for the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

"Obviously, Russia benefits from a higher price of oil," Hickenlooper said halfway through his response to a question about the Kremlin’s current geopolitical reach. "And so suddenly [Venezuela President Nicholas] Maduro's about to be, is about to leave. He's allegedly on, according to Mr. Pompeo, that as he was on the tarmac ready to fly to Cuba, you know suddenly, a call from Vladimir Putin and then he stays."

"And so their economy is continuously destabilized, their oil and gas industry is, you know, essentially nonfunctioning. That's a benefit to Russia, and the instability it creates in South America is a risk to the United States."

When asked to expand on his proposal for America to rejoin the Paris agreement and how that might negatively affect some U.S. workers like those in the coal industry, Hickenlooper focused on how to retrain or retool those same workers for jobs in emerging parts of the energy sector, like renewables.

Continued domestic production of oil and gas has other geopolitical impacts.

For example, a February report from the New York Times explained how liquefied natural gas exported from the U.S. was a more favorable option for Poland, as opposed to that country being more reliant on gas imports from Russia.

"If all sources [of gas] prove successful, Poland will have more than enough gas to replace its flow from Gazprom," the Times reported, referring to a Russian energy producer that is majority-owned by the Russian government.

Other European countries like Germany could soon follow Poland’s lead, the Times report suggested.

Emails to the Hickenlooper campaign team and his leadership political action committee requesting comment were not returned.

Energy issues have been a somewhat touchy issue for the Hickenlooper campaign. During his eight years as governor, many Democrats in Colorado were frustrated by what they viewed as a light-touch regulatory approach to oil and gas development.

The governor's more moderate approach to energy is not in line with the current effort in Democratic circles to radically curtail energy production and consumption, such as the Green New Deal.