GUEST COLUMN: In Colorado's fracking debate, don't overlook national security
There are many reasons to support domestic oil and natural gas production in Colorado and the advanced drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technologies that make it possible.
But for all the attention given to jobs, economic growth, tax revenues and lower carbon emissions, I don't believe we fully appreciate the national security and geopolitical implications of the energy we produce at home.
That needs to change.
As a veteran of the Navy with sons on active duty across the services, I do not want to see our country dependent on access to foreign energy reserves. And every time I hear calls from environmental groups to ban fracking in Colorado, I think about the dangers of going backwards to a state of dependency on foreign oil.
Recently, University of Michigan economics professor and American Enterprise Institute Scholar Mark Perry explained how far we have come and why we cannot take this progress for granted.
In a single chart, Perry tracked oil production from the U.S. and from Saudi Arabia and how it has changed over time. In the early 2000s, our production started falling behind the Saudis. Things were getting worse, with our economy growing more dependent on foreign oil - until a huge comeback started around 2010.
By 2013, the U.S. had surpassed Saudi Arabia and we have kept pulling ahead since then. In fact, we aren't just a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is now the world's biggest producer of oil and natural gas.
We finally have the energy security we have sought since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. And oil and gas development in Colorado, made possible by fracking, is a big reason why.
We have turned things around so much, in fact, that we can help our allies break their dependence on hostile regimes for energy as well.
Russia dominates the supply of natural gas to Europe and pushes anti-fracking propaganda to deter other countries - including the U.S., - from bringing competing natural gas supplies online.
The OPEC cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, has historically had a stranglehold on the global oil market. By cutting our energy imports and starting to export U.S. oil and natural gas, we are breaking the grip of Russia and OPEC, giving our allies new diplomatic leverage.
And while we are on the subject, think of the environmental benefits of American-made energy in the global market.
Environmental regulations in our country, and especially here in Colorado, are more stringent and put industry under more scrutiny than anywhere else on the planet.
As a result, the energy we produce here is much cleaner than oil and natural gas produced in Russia and OPEC nations. These are places, after all, where asking questions about state-run industries will land you in prison - or worse.
In Colorado today, because of the energy produced here, we are helping to shift the geopolitical balance from hostile regimes.
There are huge economic benefits, to be sure, but please do not overlook how much this matters to the men and women who defend our nation and our interests abroad.
Most of all, do not fall for the scare tactics of anti-fracking groups or be tricked into thinking we'd be better off without oil and natural gas production in Colorado. It just isn't true.
Andres Pico is a member of the Colorado Springs City Council for District 6.