State geologist highlights importance of Colorado’s gas, uranium deposits |

State geologist highlights importance of Colorado’s gas, uranium deposits

Collin Smith
Vince Matthews, state geologist and director for the Colorado Geological Survey, spoke about the global demand for energy and minerals and the implications for Colorado. He was the first speaker for Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2009, hosted by Yampa Valley Partners at the Holiday Inn of Craig.
Hans Hallgren

Governor's debate

Former Colorado governors Bill Owens, a Republican who served from 1999 to 2007, and Richard Lamm, a Democrat who served from 1975 to 1987, will debate the existence, causes and effects of climate change at 11:30 a.m. today.

The debate is part of the Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2009 event at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

The debate is open to all registered attendees of the Energy Summit. See Saturday's Daily Press, or visit http://www.craigdailypre..., for a recap.

There are a few unmistakable realities in the world.

One of them, Vince Matthews thinks, is that increasing energy demands are unstoppable.

Another is that Colorado has a wealth of mineral and energy reserves that could be vital in meeting national and global appetites.

Matthews, Colorado state geologist and director of Colorado Geological Survey, presented his views during the first seminar Thursday morning of the Fueling Energy Summit 2009, hosted by Yampa Valley Partners at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

“Every part of the world is increasing its use of electricity and natural resources,” he said. “In Colorado, we’re extremely rich in mineral resources and energy.”

Matthews added it would not surprise him if the federal government, which owns 36 percent of the state, became more interested in harvesting local resources as the world depletes its current energy supply.

“As the pain increases in the east, the pressure to develop these resources (in Colorado) is going to be immense,” he said.

That means more coal, and likely more uranium to feed nuclear plants.

“People like to think of coal as a 19th century fuel,” Matthews said. “It’s not. It’s a 20th century fuel and a 21st century fuel.”

The United States gets about 93 percent of its energy from coal, oil, uranium and natural gas, he said. The other 7 percent comes from renewables in the following amounts: 2.5 percent from hydroelectric, 3.6 percent from biomass, 0.3 percent from wind, 0.3 percent from geothermal and 0.1 percent from solar.

“You can see, as a nation, if we were to increase our solar and wind 10 times over in the next five years, which would be a tremendous accomplishment, we would not be very far along,” Matthews said.

Pam Kiely, who attended the seminar as a representative from Environment Colorado, a Denver-based environmental lobby group, said Matthew’s view is shortsighted.

It is true, Kiely said, that renewables are a small fraction of the country’s energy supply. But, investment in those resources is not a lost cause.

“He was looking very much at what we need, and what we have today, as opposed to thinking more aggressively in a progressive direction,” Kiely said.

The country needs to multiply its use of renewables by 50 times, she added.

“It’s something we can achieve with a very targeted approach, like putting the man on the moon,” she said.

Colorado itself has gone from “zero to 60” in the past three years, she said. Energy providers in the state are on track to exceed their target of acquiring 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Kiely specifically cited Xcel Energy, which provides a lot of Yampa Valley Electric’s power, as one company on pace to exceed its target.

“If we can do it in Colorado, it serves as a road map for what we can do all over,” she said.

Matthews is not opposed to developing renewables. He said natural gas is not the silver bullet answer but rather every energy source available.

Oil, however, should not be looked at as a viable fuel in the long term or even the immediate future, he said.

There is a “rose-colored glasses” crowd that would have people think world oil production has not yet peaked, that there is room for growth that can sustain the world for a few more years, Matthews said.

“All fields, basins and countries reach a peak, and then they decline,” he said.

U.S. production peaked around 1970, and there is no way to turn that around, Matthews added. All former Soviet Union countries likely peaked in 2008 and Saudi Arabia has plateaued.

“Looking at all this, are we going to peak in 2030?” he asked.

The world won’t really know when it reaches peak production until it’s looking in the rearview mirror, Matthews said.

In the meantime, it should plan on developing other resources, he added, including Colorado’s natural gas and uranium deposits.

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, asked whether Colorado could rebound from the current energy decline when other states – Louisiana, New York and Pennsylvania – have newly discovered, and more economically viable, oil and gas shale deposits.

The senator joined state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs and Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ken Parsons on Thursday afternoon in kicking off the Energy Summit.

Matthews said he has heard the viability of deposits in other states have been exaggerated, that many will have an 80-percent decline in production after a year.

If that’s true, then Colorado’s future should be all right once the economy recovers, he said.

Part of him, however, hopes it’s false.

“That development would be wonderful for the nation,” Matthews said. “Not so good for Colorado, though.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or

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