Open dialog among high-ranking industry leaders addresses climate change, sustainable efforts – Greeley Tribune

Multiple leaders and workers in the energy industry attended the 2021 Energy and Environment Symposium this past Thursday and Friday at the University of Northern Colorado to discuss a wide array of topics including solar, oil and gas, biofuels and more.

Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine organized this year’s symposium with a focus on networking and having an opportunity to openly discuss the industry and the impacts it has on the environment.

On the first day of the symposium, Weld County Commissioner Scott James was the master of ceremonies for a plenary session. James talked about how Weld County is the heart of energy production in Colorado. In fact, the county is the number one producer of oil and gas in the state.

In Colorado, 87% of all crude oil production and 45% of all natural gas production comes from Weld County, according to the Weld County government website.

Weld County Commissioner Scott James was the master of ceremonies for a plenary session that occurred on Thursday at the 2021 Energy and Environment Symposium at the University of Northern Colorado (Staff reporter/Morgan McKenzie).

“We also know there’s a future in energy, in the environments, and we embrace all of those,” James said. “Certainly we’re Colorado’s number one oil and gas county in the state, but did you know we’re also Colorado’s number one renewable generators?”

Prior to the first speakers of the two-day event, University of Northern Colorado President Andy Feinstein’s introduction speech highlighted the symposium’s goal of having high-level discussions and collaborations about sustainable solutions that address three main components: economic opportunities, community needs and environmental concerns.

Throughout the two days, a diverse group of speakers took the stage to address the audience about relevant topics in the field, the work they do and climate change-related presentations. The full list of speakers can be found on the symposium webpage.

Chris Wright, one of the most notable leaders in energy, was the keynote speaker for the energy and environment event. Wright serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Liberty Oilfield Services. In addition, Wright founded and serves as Executive Chairman of Liberty Resources, a Bakken-focused E&P company and Liberty Midstream Solutions.

Wright’s presentation, “Straight Talk About Energy, Climate and Poverty,” set the theme for the symposium, stating there is an urgent need for honest dialog surrounding energy due to fears and misconceptions about the topic.

“Energy matters … throughout all of human history, everywhere and always, the biggest constraint and the quality of human life is the availability, the reliability and the affordability of energy,” Wright said. “The diverges from sobriety has just gotten extreme in the last 10 years. And has ramifications across the board, not just in higher energy prices and lower energy reliability, but a lot of fear and anxiety and a lot of misunderstanding that I think is damaging for society and for people’s lives.”

He discussed the problems that arise when energy isn’t affordable or available, as well as the issues that result from a lack of investment in infrastructure and producing energy due to misconceptions.

Chris Wright, chairman and chief executive officer of the Board of Liberty Oilfield Services was the first speaker from the energy industry at a plenary session that occurred on Thursday at the 2021 Energy and Environment Symposium at the University of Northern Colorado (Staff reporter/Morgan McKenzie).

The energy expert also touched on how oil and gas has enabled the rise of the modern world in the United States. He discussed how the world has gone through three energy transitions –– the arrival of fire, agriculture and fossil fuels.

Without the fossil fuels transition and the production of oil and gas, Wright said we wouldn’t have modern medicine or food production. Because of this third transition, it is the reason that human life expectancy doubled since the beginning of oil and gas from around 30 years to 72 years today, according to Wright.

“The third energy transition is the arrival of fossil fuels,” Wright said. “This one was completely transforming, not just for human society and human accomplishment, but for the lot in life of the average person.”

During his opening remarks of the plenary session, Feinstein also pointed out that the oil and gas industry has made the community and university a more successful place, especially when it comes to the economy.

“It has supplied thousands of jobs in Weld County,” Feinstein said. “And our community and university are made more vibrant by the contributions of this industry and its people. In more recent times as Weld County and Coloradans continue to grow, the energy sector’s diversification ensures it will continue to be a driver for economic growth as the engine for success for the years to come.”

Feinstein also was prideful of the university’s diverse energy resources used everyday on campus. This is especially important due to the increased need to make good use of resources with the climate crisis obligations, according to the president.

“Like a lot of other institutions, UNC relies on a diversified mix of energy sources, and is committed itself to be a good steward of our resources,” Feinstein said. “In addition to our conservation strategies that leverage LED lighting out of retrofits, low flow water technologies and recycling programs. We also generate power on campus. Over the last few years, UNC has completed two significant solar installations, contributing to the university’s goal to increase energy savings and engage students and staff in sustainability efforts.”

Leaders and figures from the energy industry filled the room during a plenary session on Thursday at the 2021 Energy and Environment Symposium at the University of Northern Colorado (Staff reporter/Morgan McKenzie).

Multiple speakers focused on climate change and sustainable efforts during their presentations. Wright said due to climate change, there is dialog about the fourth energy transition, which is the move away from fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’ve been speaking on climate change for coming up on 20 years,” Wright said. “It is very real, It is global, it’s a thing we should keep our eyes on. We should invest. It’s driving innovation and driving technologies. We’ve increased the CO2, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere by about 50% for burning hydrocarbons.”

Wright said a lot of people say: “If we don’t allow drilling of oil and gas wells in Colorado, that’ll get us off hydrocarbons.” This idea is not true, he explained.

If workers stop drilling oil and gas wells in the state, hydrocarbons will just be produced somewhere else in a more expensive and dirtier fashion. As a result, more pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions will just displace it.

How is the fourth energy transition going? Wright said in the year 2000, the world got 86% of its energy from fossil fuels. After two decades, that number has only dropped to 84%. With people working towards this fourth transition, he said there are two ways to work towards that change.

“One is to develop better different additional sources of energy,” Wright said. That’s awesome. We should do that.”

However, the wrong way to go about the change is spending a lot of money subsidizing low energy dense technologies that only can go so far, according to Wright. This result has been proven to raise electricity prices and lower the reliability of electricity.

“I don’t care where energy comes from, that doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is the reliability, the affordability and the amount of energy that can allow humans to live better lives.

“I have no doubt we will be decarbonized in one to 200 years from now. But is that going to happen in 30 years? There’s just no chance, in the last 20 years, we’ve gone from 86 to 84, does anybody here believe we’re going to go from 84 to zero in 30 years? So we should push ahead but if you push ahead at all cost, you end up harming people’s lives, shrinking their opportunities, and most of all, you end up harming those less fortunate than us.”

After Wright’s opening presentation, the symposium continued on for two days covering other vital topics such as –– energy and air quality regulation in Colorado, future opportunities for wind and hydrogen growth in Colorado counties, the role of biomass in a sustainable energy future and much more.

“I hope that symposiums like this one will continue to help us be more attentive to developing a sustainable strategy for the future that accounts for the health of our planet, our communities and our people,” Feinstein said. In Colorado and northern Colorado specifically, we had an opportunity to show leadership and work together in a way that ensures that economic and environmental sustainability are not competing priorities.”

To learn more about the topics of the 2021 Energy and Environment Symposium, go to energyenvironmentsymposium.com.

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