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Colorado State Publications Blog

New Reports from the Colorado Energy Office

The mission of the Colorado Energy Office is to “deliver cost effective energy services and advance innovative energy solutions for the benefit of all Coloradans.”  The office explores policy and practices related to a variety of types of energy production and consumption, including electricity; renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, methane, hydropower); traditional energy sources (natural gas, coal, petroleum, propane, nuclear); and more.  In the past year the office has released several new reports, available from our library, dealing with these important resources:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Oil Shale

In 1921 the Colorado Geological Survey published a bulletin entitled Oil Shales of ColoradoAccording to the report, Pennsylvania and nearby states dominated the petroleum extraction industry in the mid-nineteenth century, but as drilling declined at the same time that demand increased, Colorado and other western and mid-western states looked to Scotland and France, who had all the while been experimenting with oil shale.

What is oil shale?  Oil shale is oil that is produced by distillation of sedimentary rock.  For an easy-to-understand explanation, see the Colorado Geological Survey’s 2004 RockTalk publication about “black gold.”

Oil shale production, Colorado, 1918.

Looking back to 1921, however, it was clear that with the increase in automobile production and sales, more oil would be needed.  The recent war had also caused increased demand.  “When the ever-increasing demand is taken into consideration,” writes report author R.D. George, “it is evident that the time is not far distant when a part of the supply will again come from the distillation of shales.  When that time comes Colorado will unquestionably take a prominent place.”

Did George accurately predict the future of oil shale?  In some ways, yes — oil shale continues to be experimented with in Colorado.  However, as stated in the above-referenced RockTalk article, although oil shale has enormous potential, “the United States is not using this apparently vast resource to any significant extent, and it may not be able to do so in the near future.”  Why?  Processing is very expensive, says the article, and not always environmentally friendly:  “…at present, the economical way to mine it appears to be surface- or strip-mining with its associated land disturbance.  Most of the richest oil shale is located in areas of the western United States that are chronically short of water, making revegetation after strip-mining difficult.”  The water shortage is another problem, as oil shale production requires significant amounts of water.  Economics are also a factor, as described in the article.

Despite its challenges, oil shale development has a significant role in the history of Colorado resource extraction.  Check out the 1921 publication and others from our library to learn more about the history of oil shale in Colorado.

Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Fracking: Risk to Homes and the Environment

Today’s Denver Post headlined “Colorado residents push to protect homes, river from fracking,” which discusses the use of state rules that were established by recommendations from a 2014 task force.  If you’re looking for the task force’s report, which does not appear to be linked to in the Post article, you can find it here.  For further resources, search the term “hydraulic fracturing” in our library’s web catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Oil and Gas Fields of Colorado

Most Coloradans know that oil and gas production has skyrocketed in Colorado, but a 1975 resource from the Colorado Geological Survey illustrates the industry’s development visually and using statistics.  Oil and Gas Fields of Colorado includes two parts:  a map, and a book of statistical data.  You can see how much the industry has expanded by comparing the 1975 map to a current map courtesy of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  COGCC also has data files to compare with the 1975 statistics.

Oil and gas fields, 1975
Oil and gas fields today
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Electric Power Industry in Colorado

Back in 1938 the Colorado State Planning Commission and the Works Progress Administration undertook a study of the Development of the Electric Power Industry in Colorado 1916-1936, in order to “forecast the future” of the industry in Colorado, and because the use of hydropower was greatly expanding at this time, particularly as Colorado worked to recover from the effects of the Great Depression.  “There is no question that the state is going to enjoy in the near future, a program of irrigation development of tremendous magnitude.  Already one great project — the Colorado-Big Thompson — is under way.  Others will follow, some dealing with transmountain diversion and others with intrabasin development,” the authors wrote. This detailed document provides statistical data, graphs and charts, and other information on the development of hydroelectricity in Colorado, and provides a framework for the industry’s early development efforts. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Save Money by Reducing Energy Use

The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) has just released 10 tips on how you can save money by reducing energy use in your home, reprinted here:



No Cost:
1. Start by setting your thermostat to 68°.  Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. Turn your thermostat down 5° at night or when leaving your home for an hour or more to save up to $70 on energy costs each year.  For a small investment, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat to adjust your home’s temperature settings automatically when you’re sleeping or away.
2. Set your water heater to 120°. It’s simple.  Your water heater won’t have to work so hard if it’s set at a lower temperature. The temperature control settings on water heaters either indicate “low, medium, and high” or actual temperature settings. Simply consider turning down your water heater to a slightly cooler setting to reduce the amount of energy used to heat the water while still keeping the water warm enough for home use.  In fact, each time you lower the temperature by 10°F you’ll save 3 to 5{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} on your water heating costs. That’s a savings of $6 to $10 a year.  For a small investment, about $20, consider adding a water heater blanket to your water heater tank to insulate the tank and reduce the amount of energy used to maintain warm water in the water heater tank. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations.
3. In the winter, make the most of Mother Nature’s sunlight by opening window coverings on south-facing windows to warm your home.  The solar heat gain from the sun during the day can conserve valuable energy.  Also, consider closing window coverings in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close window coverings to retain heat. Up to 15{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of your heat can escape through unprotected windows. 
4. If you have a clothes washing machine, use cold water.  According to ENERGY STAR, washing clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year with an electric water heater and about $30 a year with a gas water heater3.   
Low Cost:
5. Replace your furnace or heat pump filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it is a high efficiency filter designed to last several months) during the heating season to reduce heating costs by up to 5{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} or about $35 a year. 
6. Install water-efficient showerheads and faucets. It really helps! 1.8 gallon per minute showerheads can reduce your hot water consumption by as much as 10{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5}.  You’ll see savings up to $6 per year for a sink faucet aerator and $20 per year for a showerhead. 
7. Switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They may cost a little more, but you can save about $40 over the life of just one bulb. 
8. Weatherize your home and save up to 10{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of your heating and cooling costs. A handy homeowner can seal up holes to the outside by weather-stripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along the home’s foundation. 
Go Big:
9. Insulate your home!  The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. Other effective places to add insulation include unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces. Insulating walls can be more complex, so check with a contractor for advice.  When insulation is correctly installed AND the home is totally weatherized, the average home can see annual savings of up to 20{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of your heating and cooling costs.  
10. Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances. A smart choice. ENERGY STAR is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.  http://www.energystar.gov/ Appliances and electronics really contribute to your energy bill. When it is time to replace, remember items like refrigerators, washers, dryers, furnaces, TVs and computers have two price tags–purchase price and lifetime energy cost.  According to ENERGY STAR4, the average homeowner spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year. Change to appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, and you can save $75 a year in energy costs, while saving the environment.

For more tips from the OCC, see their consumer advisories webpage, which includes tips on various topics from when to take the holiday lights down to how to insure drones, and much more. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Oil and Gas Health Information and Response Program

If you’re concerned about the health impacts of oil and gas drilling, fracking, etc., the State of Colorado has a new resource for you.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Health Information and Response Program is a program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by which you can report health concerns regarding oil and gas, as well as find data, read FAQs, and more.  The program website contains a “Health Concern Form” that is fully confidential.   The site also contains a “Clearinghouse of Information” with resources on air and water quality, oil and gas production, and regulations.  Finally, the site contains FAQs for people who live near oil and gas development sites or otherwise have concerns about health risks from oil and gas production. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Power Up Colorado: Jobs in the Energy Sector

The Colorado Department of Higher Education and College in Colorado have teamed up to create a website devoted to education, training, and jobs in the energy sector.  According to the website, Power Up Colorado, “The energy industry has been a key part of Colorado’s economy throughout its history.  Energy jobs…pay considerably more than Colorado’s median household income.”  Power Up Colorado offers guidance on schools and programs focusing on the energy industry; career pathways resources; opportunities to connect with Colorado energy companies; and information on financial aid and other financial resources for adults going back to school.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Oil and Gas in Colorado, 1925

Where was oil found in Colorado in the early days of the automobile?  How do different parts of the state compare in oil and gas production based on geological epochs?  A 1925 map (reprinted in 1984) from the Colorado Geological Survey answers these questions and more.  Although the early map did not use color, it instead used shading to indicate the various geological time periods (Tertiary, Cretaceous, Triassic/Jurassic, Paleozoic) and symbols to indicate oil fields, gas and oil seeps, anticlines, bitumen, deep water wells, and other relevant information.  This interesting look into the early years of oil and gas production has been digitized and is available online from our library.  Visit our web catalog for further resources.

http://cospl.coalliance.org/fedora/repository/co:13911/nr71721internet.pdf

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

The Colorado Energy Office, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, and other partners have teamed up to bring you a new website, Refuel Colorado.  This website offers information on the use of and cost savings associated with alternative fuel vehicles.  Website users can select the type of vehicle — electric, natural gas, propane, flex-fuel, or biodiesel — to obtain information specific to that vehicle type.  The site also offers information on cost savings and tax credits.  The site’s “models” page is a helpful resource for choosing a vehicle, and lists availability for the different vehicle types.  The “fleet resources” page offers information on purchasing alternative-fuel buses and other fleet vehicles.  And a page on market developments for alternative fuel vehicles is currently under construction, so check back soon.  This site is a wealth of information on this developing industry.  For more resources on alternative fuel vehicles, including fact sheets about tax credits, check out our library’s web catalog

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Plug-In Electric Motor Vehicles

Laws are changing for plug-in electric motor vehicles in Colorado.  Starting January 1, 2014, owners of such vehicles will be assessed a $50 fee as part of their registration and will be required to display a decal showing that the fee has been paid.  For information on determining whether you have a qualifying vehicle, what to do in cases of change of ownership, and where the money goes, see this brochure from the Colorado Dept. of Revenue. 
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Energy and Sustainability at the Capitol

Earlier this month the CU Denver Business School hosted a forum on energy sustainability in historic buildings.  The forum was held in the Colorado State Capitol Building as a living example of the points made in the forum.  Colorado’s Capitol is the first LEED-certified state capitol building in the nation.  At the forum, speakers such as Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall discussed how updating the Capitol with geothermal energy has saved the state more than $8 million in utility costs and has offset more than 91 million pounds of carbon emissions.  For more on the Capitol’s energy efficiency and sustainability, see the document Energy Use at the Capitol from the Colorado Energy Office.


Solar panels on the State Capitol roof.  Courtesy Colorado Energy Office.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Oil and Gas Resources

One of the specialties of the University of Colorado Law School is natural resources law, and the School’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment is sponsoring the Intermountain Oil and Gas BMP Project.  The Project’s website features a helpful resources page on their website that includes information on oil and gas development, GIS, reclamation, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), coalbed methane, air and water quality, effects on wildlife and vegetation, and much more.  Each topic includes background articles and links on the topic.  This website is a great place to start for anyone researching the development, best management practices, and environmental effects of oil and gas in Colorado.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Energy Office Audit

You may have read of the recent audit of the Colorado Energy Office, which has been making headlines in the last few days.  You can read the audit report online at the State Auditor’s website.  For more on the Colorado Energy Office visit their website or search our web catalog for their publications.  (Note:  Before July 1, 2012, the Colorado Energy Office was called the Governor’s Energy Office.) 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Energy-Efficient Lighting

If you have a lamp that requires 75 Watt incandescent bulbs, you’d better stock up now, because production will cease next month.  If you need 60 Watt bulbs, you’ve got another year to stock up.  And 100 Watt incandescents have already been phased out last January.  Why?  Federal Regulations are calling for new, energy-efficient lighting including CFLs (compact flourescents) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes).  These new types of bulbs are much more energy efficient than the old incandescents, which were first demonstrated by Thomas Edison on December 20, 1879. 
Installing CFLs and LEDs in your home or business can save you money on your energy bills.  As with any new technology, however, it is important to monitor potential health risks.  Energy-efficient light bulbs may have a “dark side”:  mercury and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.  Click the highlighted links to read more about protecting yourself from these risks.  For more ways to save energy in your home, visit the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment’s “What Can YOU Do to Save Energy?” tips.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Alternative Fuel: Compressed Natural Gas

In 2007 Colorado began it’s “Greening Government” initiative, one of the goals being that 50{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of the fuel bought for state vehicles should be alternative fuel. Our state is rich in natural gas reserves, and with that in mind, legislation was passed in 2009 requiring that state-owned vehicles operate on compressed natural gas (CNG) when possible, in the hopes of increasing the use of a transportation fuel that is clean, and locally produced.

( From C.R.S. 24-30-1104 (2) (c) (II))

Beginning on January 1, 2010, the executive director shall purchase motor vehicles that operate on compressed natural gas, subject to their availability and the availability of adequate fuel and fueling infrastructure, unless the increased base cost of such vehicle or the increased life cycle cost of such vehicle is ore than ten percent over the cost of a comparable nonflexible fuel vehicle.

In the last year there have been 2 recent studies analyzing the use of CNG as an alternative fuel:

More information on CNG vehicles can be found on the Colorado Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition website. The Greening Government Transportation Efficiency Audit report from the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration may also be of interest. General information on natural gas in Colorado can be found on the Colorado Geological Survey website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Wind Power and its Effect on Wildlife

You’ve probably seen the massive white windmill-like towers dotting Colorado’s eastern plains, used for harvesting wind energy.  There’s no question that wind is an important new source of energy for electric power generation.  But how do these giant propellers affect birds and other wildlife?  The Colorado Division of Wildlife held a three-day conference on this subject in 2006; you can read the report and abstracts from the conference here.  DOW also put together a helpful Informational Resource Guide on the topic, available from our library.  For more information on wildlife and Colorado’s new energy sources, visit the Energy page on the DOW’s website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Local Control for Oil and Gas Regulation

Earlier this year Governor Hickenlooper created a task force to develop cooperative strategies regarding the regulation of oil and gas development. As drilling activity has been picking up in Colorado, many communities have been working to establish local regulations in an effort to address environmental concerns. In some cases this has led to conflicting rules within or across jurisdictions. The Task Force on Cooperative Strategies Regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development released a draft of their recommendations on April 11th. All of their documents, comments from the public, and information about the process is available on the task force website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Governor's Energy Office

A story in today’s Denver Post reports that new legislation is being offered to change the name of the Governor’s Energy Office to the Colorado Energy Office, and will remove Governor Ritter’s phrase “New Energy Economy” from state law.  Proponents of the bill say this change will allow the office to focus on all kinds of energy, not just “new” energy sources.  Opponents say the change “diminish[es Colorado’s] brand” as a renewable energy leader.  Whatever name the office goes by, our library has collected (and will continue to collect) the many resources published by this office.  Some of the recent GEO publications available in our library include:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Fracking and Oil in Colorado

There have been a lot of stories in the news lately about oil development in Colorado and concern about a technique called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This technique uses a specially blended liquid which is pumped into a well under extreme pressure causing cracks in rock formations underground. These cracks in the rock then allow oil and natural gas to flow, increasing resource production. There is growing concern that hydraulic fracturing can lead to groundwater contamination. The process has been receiving a lot of attention due to increased drilling activity in the Denver Basin over the last few years. The latest issue of “Rock Talk” from the Colorado Geological Survey gives a nice overview: “Colorado’s New Oil Boom –the Niobrara.” The COGCC also has put together a great site on hydraulic fracturing information for public review.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has been monitoring the effects of oil and gas development on groundwater for many years. Many studies have shown that although some wells in the vicinity of active oil and gas rigs contain methane and other chemicals, the origin of the chemicals was from a completely different source than from the nearby oil wells. The reports are available online from the COGCC library. Reports focusing on the Denver Julesburg Basin as well as other areas of Colorado are included.

The Legislative Council Staff have published an Issue Brief on hydraulic fracturing that gives background information, and details current laws and regulations surrounding the issue.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Wind

This year Colorado is experiencing a very windy spring, with stronger and more frequent winds than normal — often 25 to 35 miles per hour, according to an article in the Denver Post. The article quotes CSU atmospheric science researcher Nolan Doeskin, who says, “Fast moving disturbances from the Pacific…leav[es] us with a bluster of wind.” So what is the science behind wind? We have a number of publications in our library, many from CSU, that study and explain the phenomenon. Search our web catalog using keywords like wind, clouds, atmosphere, etc.

Wind is also a major part of the state’s “new energy economy.” For information on wind energy, here are a few titles available from our library: