AIF Blog

The Future of Energy: How States Are Leading the Charge

Sep 28, 2017
CATEGORY: Environment, U.S.A.


Governor John Hickenlooper speaks with Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson at the Maroon Bells during the Aspen Ideas Festival. 


Back in June, the Trump administration announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat climate change. Since then, US governors have stepped in and shown their commitment to securing a clean energy future.


Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper believes that states are the laboratories of democracy. He sat down with the Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson to discuss Colorado’s efforts to stay in compliance with the Paris climate accord.


“We need to figure out how we can move the whole country forward as individual states working together,” Hickenlooper told Gerson at the Aspen Ideas Festival.


Hickenlooper has made several moves to combat climate change, but not without opposition. Since Trump’s announcement, the Colorado governor signed on to the US Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of states committed to upholding the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The move drew resistance. Republicans in the Colorado Senate felt Hickenlooper failed to take a collaborative approach. They questioned the legality of the governor’s decision, claiming to challenge him in court should he bypass the legislative process.


In addition, Hickenlooper issued an executive order that pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado by at least 26 percent by 2025. And, even more recently, on September 16th, Hickenlooper announced the Colorado Climate Plan, a roadmap for state agencies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.


The efforts bring together diverse groups from across the state, Hickenlooper says. When creating proposals for methane rules, he received input from both the Environmental Defense Fund and the oil and gas industry. Similarly, the governor had 30,000 people of different backgrounds contribute to the Colorado Water Plan that was completed two years ago.


Since his inauguration in 2011, Hickenlooper says he’s taken a balanced approach towards securing clean energy. He says reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be beneficial not just for the environment, but also the economy.


“We have to realize that there is enormous opportunity for jobs in clean energy,” Hickenlooper says.


Today there are over 60,000 clean tech jobs across the state of Colorado—many of which do not require a college degree.


“This is a long term battle,” Hickenlooper says, “But I believe Colorado sets an example for other states when it comes to environmental regulation.”


Watch the full session here: 



By Eliza Costas, Editorial Assistant, Aspen Ideas Festival