On Tuesday, we discussed the silly-season "challenge" by GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to "oppose any ban on hydraulic fracturing" in Colorado. Gardner cited a recent study of the hypothetical economic impacts of a total statewide ban on "fracking," which is not being proposed by anyone in Colorado today, and used those hypothetical numbers to claim that "100,000 Colorado jobs" are "at risk of being completely eliminated" by Udall's "refusal to oppose a ban on fracking." Gardner is blatantly misrepresenting the results of this study of a nonexistent statewide ban on fracking, claiming they could be the result of a much narrower proposed ballot initiative allowing local communities to regulate drilling within their boundaries.
The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels follows up today:
Less than two weeks after Republican Congressman Cory Gardner said he didn't take stands on local election issues — whether it was legalizing pot or seceding from Colorado — he blasted opponent Mark Udall for not saying where he stands on a fracking issue that could be on the November ballot.
Bartels makes an excellent point that Gardner has disclaimed any opinion on numerous "state issues," like secession and marijuana legalization. More recently, this stated desire to "stay out of local issues" has helped Gardner flip-flop on the Personhood abortion ban initiatives he had proudly supported in 2008 and 2010. Which makes it more than a little hypocritical to "call out" Udall for not taking a position on this "state issue."
But there's a more fundamental problem that Bartels completely misses in her story: there is no ballot measure coming for a statewide ban on fracking. Gardner's "challenge" to Udall specifically invokes the job losses that a University of Colorado study claimed could result from a statewide total ban on hydraulic fracturing–not the local control initiative(s) actually working their way toward the ballot.
Once you understand that, this whole debate seems awfully…well, pointless.
The only thing we have to add here, as gently as we may, is to suggest that Sen. Mark Udall has little or nothing to gain by trying to outdo Cory Gardner on support for the energy industry. The fact is, as Bartels notes in her story, that Udall is pretty friendly to energy interests overall, and has been for many years. In "response" to the standoff between energy producing Russia and energy transporting/consuming Ukraine, Udall went out of his way to hype the idea of liquid natural gas exports, trying to squelch Gardner's own LNG export pandering–even though the U.S. lacks export facilities for LNG and Ukraine lacks import facilities. This was all rightly called out as misleading by a significant number of experts.
Bottom line: nothing that Udall says or does is going to sway support in the energy industry for Gardner, one of the most beholden members of Congress to energy interests in the entire nation. Udall doesn't have to play this game, and the votes he needs are not in the energy business. The sooner he realizes that, and focuses on refuting Gardner's false statements instead of trying to keep up with him, the better off Udall will be.