BEAVER CREEK - Energy makes the world go around and the Vail Global Energy Forum will focus on how to keep it coming and keep it green.
This year’s forum includes gas drillers, greenies, frackers and geophysicists in presentations and panel discussions. It’s organized by Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and the Vail Valley Foundation.
The goal is simple: To simplify complex issues while providing real solutions for an issue that won’t go away as long as people need energy. If you’re lucky and paying attention, then you may even get to watch someone sip fracking fluid, or maybe magnesium chloride, as a couple presenters did this past year.
The discussions tend to be civilized and based on information instead of emotion, which is how Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper thinks all energy discussions should be.
“We are going to be fact based, we’re going to be respectful, and finally we’re going to compromise,” Hickenlooper said. “The real challenge is getting everyone on the same facts.”
Facts from trusted sources can be tough to come by, Hickenlooper said, especially around hydraulic fracturing.
Not so long ago, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said, done properly, hydraulic fracturing could be safe. Opponents were loud and immediate.
“It caused a huge uproar, but she didn’t back away from that and she remained fact based,” Hickenlooper said.
Attitudes and technology change constantly, usually for the better, said filmmaker Carl Colby, one of the event organizers.
“Thirty years ago, if you met in a coffee shop, you’d also be smoking. Now it’s almost completely unacceptable. How did that happen?” Colby said, as an example of how accepted social norms change.
That same attitude change will be displayed at the Forum, as Halliburton’s president will stand on the same stage as the Environmental Defense Fund.
“That’s critical. If you just brought in the industry people, or the academics, you’d be missing some vital perspectives,” Colby said. “That’s why we wanted it to be as well rounded as possible.”
All of the above
Hickenlooper calls himself a recovering geologist on loan to public service. He says he’s an “all-of-the-above” energy guy, and that includes renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal, along with oil and natural gas.
Hickenlooper said he looks at Colorado’s energy industry through the prism of three “critical” issues: economics and jobs, environmental issues and world security.
The ability to temper some of the intensity around the world that can be related to energy, he said.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology could quadruple the amount of oil and gas available, and also expand the horizons of where drilling can happen, he said.
Blue bridge to our green future
Shale gas resources are a blue bridge to our green future, says Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback.
Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely and it’ll have to be, because the world will be doing more of it, he said.
“We cannot stop thinking toward the future just because we have abundant natural gas. If it’s a bridge, there has to be something on the other side. And what’s on the other side is a carbon-free energy future,” Zoback said.