Bully pulpit: Would-be renewable energy governor and oil-and-gas political machine get ready to rumble

A Colorado-sized political fight is collecting heat just below the surface of a non-election year summer. In next year’s governor’s race money could be spent like it’s never been spent before if the flash point issue is energy. – U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is a candidate striking matches. – The best-known (and likely to be the best-financed) Democrat wants Colorado to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, a goal also supported by another Democratic candidate, former state Sen. Michael Johnston. – “I’m going to continue to do what I’ve always done to stand up for health and property rights,” Polis said in a phone interview with Colorado Politics. “I look forward to working with the industry, but at the same time, Colorado won’t be bullied by anybody.” – Those “bullies” he refers to are wealthy, politically stealthy oil-and-gas interests. According to an accounting by Christopher N. Osher of The Denver Post, those interests have poured $80 million into swaying public opinion in Colorado since 2014.

Industry leaders and analysts subsequently told Colorado Politics that it was Polis, primarily, who made them aware of their political vulnerabilities in 2014. In a way, he gave life to his own nemesis.

Before Polis became its point man, the anti-drilling faction already had long-established environmentalist connections in Colorado.

But when the congressman from Boulder jumped in the fracking fight, they had a high-profile leader with deeper pockets and stronger D.C. connections.

Dan Haley, the president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, and other industry leaders told Colorado Politics if energy regulation is an issue in next year’s election, they will have no choice but to defend their interests.

“Jared Polis made no friends in the oil and gas industry when he financed initiatives that would have put us out of business in 2014,” Haley told Colorado Politics. “To me it would seem that a former entrepreneur like Congressman Polis would understand better than…

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