Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bid to run for president in 2020 as a moderate pragmatist may not play well in a Democratic field that’s sprinted left, especially on energy issues.
“The fact that he seems moderate tells you more about how far to the left the party has gone than it does about Hickenlooper’s policy positions,” Tom Pyle, president of the free-market Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“He’s a down-the-line liberal,” said Pyle, who also served on President Donald Trump’s transition team. Pyle said that while Hickenlooper is no “socialist,” he “still used the power of the government to pick winners and losers in energy.”
Hickenlooper announced his presidential campaign Monday with an ad showing himself as a successful governor who worked with both sides to implement a progressive agenda. The ad largely neglected energy issues, except to claim he brought the oil and gas industry and environmentalists together to toughen methane regulations.
WATCH: Hickenlooper’s First 2020 Campaign Ad
But Colorado-based observers say it’s not clear that’s going to play well with Democrats in or outside of Colorado. Indeed, Democratic candidates are rushing to embrace the sweeping Green New Deal resolution, which Hickenlooper hasn’t embraced.
“He’s trying to walk a line,” Amy Oliver Cooke, director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center at the free-market Independence Institute, said in an interview. “He’s going to have a tough time with the Bernie-ites.”
“He is going to try and take credit for a great economy and at the same time claim to be the guy who was ‘tough on fossil fuel,’” Cooke told TheDCNF.
Many Colorado environmental groups have attacked Hickenlooper for his support of hydraulic fracturing in the state — a main driver of economic growth. Hickenlooper’s supporters, on the other hand, paint him as a pragmatist who worked with both sides to improve the environment.
In fact, Hickenlooper issued executive orders to get more electric vehicles on the roads, cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and forcing more wind and solar onto the grid. However, the former governor opposed activists’ attempts to strangle drilling.
One ballot initiative organizer told Axios in January that Hickenlooper “wouldn’t have the support of many progressives in the state” for supporting drilling.
Hickenlooper, along with many other Colorado Democrats, opposed an environmentalist-backed ballot initiative that would have effectively banned oil and gas drilling throughout most of Colorado. Voters rejected the measure in 2018.
“I don’t see how Governor Hickenlooper has much attraction for the current Democratic electorate,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance — a non-profit trade association representing oil and gas companies.
“They want the Green New Deal, socialist policies and renewables only. They’re just not in a practical mindset at this time,” Sgamma told TheDCNF in an email.
Sgamma also noted that Colorado Democrats are quickly moving to essentially rebuke Hickenlooper’s legacy with more aggressive anti-fossil fuel policies.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, “basically shut down oil and natural gas in many ways and acts as if the myriad regulations that his predecessor put in place weren’t enough,” Sgamma said.
“The direction of the Democratic party is toward renewables and nothing else,” Sgamma said. “Hickenlooper understands the balance, but his party doesn’t want to talk about balance and reality.”
Polis and state Democrats introduced legislation in March that would easily let government officials kill oil and gas projects. The bill would not only give environmental interests more control of the state’s oil and gas regulatory body, but would also allow local and state officials to easily block projects if they deem any risk to the environment or public health.
“This would be recession through legislation if this bill passes,” Cooke said. “We’re successful because we responsible development our energy resources.”
The Sunrise Movement asked Hickenlooper to show them “he’s serious” about running for president by pledging no to accept oil and gas industry money — 2020 hopefuls Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pledged against taking oil and gas industry dollars.
The Sunrise Movement is the main activist group pushing the Green New Deal. The youth group has occupied Capitol Hill offices, and even sent children to appeal to lawmakers, which led to an exchange with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein going viral.